Players wore masks and competed in front of mostly empty bleachers Thursday on the opening day of the Cook Inlet Conference volleyball tournament, but at least one thing was the same as usual.
The Dimond Lynx and South Wolverines, who together have won 12 of the last 15 CIC championships, grabbed first-round victories.
Dimond and South joined the West Eagles and the Bartlett Golden Bears as first-day winners at Service High, where COVID-19 mitigation plans are making an obvious impact.
Players are wearing masks, spectators aren’t allowed, the action is single-elimination instead of the usual double-elimination and, perhaps most significantly, there is no state tournament to advance to — it was canceled because of the pandemic.
All four of Thursday’s matches ended in three sets.
Top-seeded Dimond eliminated eighth-seeded Service 25-18, 25-12, 25-15; No. 2-seeded South fought off No. 7 Chugiak 27-25, 25-22, 25-20; No. 3 Bartlett stopped No. 6 Eagle River 25-19, 26-15, 25-14, and No. 4 West eliminated No. 5 East 25-17, 25-23, 25-12.
The winners will move onto semifinal matches Friday at Service High -- Dimond vs. West at 5:30 p.m., and Bartlett vs. South at 7:30 p.m. The losers are done for the season.
The championship match is slated for 5:30 p.m. Saturday, and the winner can make a legit claim of being the best in the state -- a CIC team has won the last 17 state championships, usually by defeating another CIC team.
Dimond, the defending CIC champion, sailed into the semifinals behind big matches from Larssen Anderson (7 kills, 10 aces, 7 digs) and Olivia Kelzenberg (7 kills, 4 blocks). Kadyn Osborne handed out 19 assists.
South, the defending state champion, survived the dramatic first set with Chugiak and went on to prevail behind double-figure kills from Hanna Henrie (13 kills, 2 blocks) and Cami Houser (11 kills, 3 aces) and seven kills from Tracy Rasavong. Madi Trawick chipped in 14 digs and 2 aces for the Wolverines.
In West’s victory over East, three Eagles combined for 33 kills — Salvation Elia had 13 and Camille Ruhlin-Hicks and Lizzie Hoak each had 10 — while Bina Maugaotega supplied five aces and 35 assists.