Monroe bullied its way through the opening day of the Class 3A state volleyball tournament, hammering defending state champion Grace Christian 3-0 in the opening round before sweeping Homer to reach the winner's bracket final.
"I don't think they'll sleep too much tonight," said Monroe coach David Obermeyer, whose team can reach the state final with a win over Mt. Edgecumbe at 7 p.m. Friday at the Alaska Airlines Center.
While Monroe's opening round brilliance may have looked simple, Obermeyer said that was far from the case against Homer.
"We quit attacking, and they didn't make it easy," said Obermeyer, whose team improved to 18-0.
The Rams will face an undefeated Mt. Edgecumbe team looking to make its fifth consecutive 3A final, and Obermeyer said he knows the Braves won't be intimidated by Monroe – whose lone state championship came in the 1987-88 season at the all classifications level.
"It's going to be about showing up and playing in that game," said Obermeyer.
Monroe's Marissa King had a match-high 15 kills against Homer, while Brianna Lundgren had nine kills and nine blocks, Emily Pfister added eight kills and Kianna King had 27 digs. Homer advanced with a 3-0 win over Nome in the opening round.
While Monroe's route to Friday's feature match seemed smooth, the Braves had to fight off a pesky Valdez squad in the afternoon to set up the showdown. Mt. Edgecumbe won the first two sets against the Buccaneers before Valdez stormed back for a 27-25 win in the third, fighting off a pair of match points in the win. Valdez had reached the second round with a 3-1 win over Barrow.
Despite the loss, Mt. Edgcumbe's players never seemed rattled, finishing the decisive fourth set on a 5-1 run behind three kills from 5-foot-11 outside hitter Taryn White.
"Nobody got rattled," said Braves coach Michael Mahoney, whose team improved to 17-0 with its two wins Thursday.
Mt. Edgecumbe senior middle blocker Eden Cronk said her team will need to play its best against Monroe.
"It's going to take a lot of teamwork and a lot of confidence," she said.
Cronk said the key in volleyball is to not lose faith, even when things don't go your team's way.
"We've just got to keep our heads," she said.
Mahoney said he thinks his team is up to the challenge of playing in a showdown against a fellow undefeated squad.
"The girls are ready, they're primed," he said. "It's going to be about who's going to better fight through the difficult passages."
Defending champion Grace Christian will face Nome in Friday's bottom half of the bracket, while Barrow will play Nikiski. The winners of those matches will advance to face Valdez and Homer, respectively.
Contact Matt Tunseth at 257-4335 or email@example.com
ASAA/First National Bank State volleyball tournament
(all remaining matches at Alaska Airlines Center)
Valdez 3, Barrow 1 (25-11, 25-17, 23-25, 25-15)
Mt. Edgecumbe 3, Nikiski 0 (25-13, 25-11, 25-16)
Monroe 3, Grace Christian 0 (25-14, 25-15, 25-13)
Homer 3, Nome 0 (25-10, 25-11, 25-12)
Mt. Edgecumbe 3, Valdez 1 (25-23, 25-20, 25-27, 25-20)
Monroe 3, Homer 0 (25-23, 25-19, 25-21)
11 a.m. -- Barrow vs. Nikiski
1 p.m. -- Grace Christian vs. Nome
3 p.m. -- Homer vs. Barrow-Nikiski winner
5 p.m. -- Valdez vs. Grace-Nome winner
7 p.m. -- Mt. Edgecumbe vs. Monroe