After beating three of the top teams Alaska within a 48 hour period at the 4A state volleyball championship tournament, the West High team looked like they had the makings of this year’s “team of destiny.”
The Eagles had vanquished the Wasilla Warriors, beat the top-ranked Dimond Lynx for the first time this season and slayed the Colony Knights in a straight sets sweep on their way to punching their ticket to Saturday’s championship game.
Due to the double elimination format of this year’s tournament, Dimond wasn’t done for good despite losing to its suddenly surging rival West. The Lynx were heavily favored to win it all this year but when they fell to the Eagles, it apparently served as the wake up call they needed.
Dimond played its way back into a rematch with West where they would force a title tiebreaker by sweeping the Eagles in three straight sets (25-10, 27-25, 26-24) on Saturday at the Alaska Airlines Center. The Lynx kept up the momentum topping West again 30-20 to claim their first state title since 2018.
“I think that loss was actually really important for us,” senior libero Kailei Muehlenkamp said. “It showed us that we have to battle, that we can’t just walk in and think that we have it when really we don’t. Fighting back like this changed us.”
She said it forced them to “flip the switch so quick” and the Warriors were the first up to taste their wrath as Dimond swept them in three straight sets on Friday. Dimond beat the Knights in four sets the following afternoon to reach the rematch against West.
“I’m glad they saw it that way,” head coach Kim Lauwers said. “It’s a different way to look at it and there’s no feeling sorry for yourself. It’s just ‘Hey, now you got a different path and you got to look at one match at a time.’ And that’s what we did.”
Muehlenkamp was still in middle school when the Lynx last hoisted the First National Bank 4A state championship trophy and after finishing as runner-ups to South last year, she was glad to come out on top and end her high school volleyball career as a champion.
“Oh my gosh it feels so good,” she said. “Freshman year coming in, I didn’t even think I was going to make this team. I went from C-Team all the way up and there were a couple girls on the team that took the same path as me and we are all starters.”
With the win, Dimond completed the rarely achieved triple crown since the Lynx also won the Cook Inlet Conference and Region IV championships as well this season.
“Those are far and few, can’t get those all the time,” Lauwers said. “That was a goal of ours so that was pretty special.”
As gratifying as this triumph was for their team, the Lynx have empathy for the Eagles as many of them are close friends and play on the same club teams when they’re not lacing up for their respective high schools.
“I love all those girls so much,” Muehlenkamp said. “It was so much fun because you never know who is going to show up and who is going to have the hot hand so they play their top game and we play our top game.”