Half of the field is set for the Alaska 4A and 3A high school state volleyball championship games heading into the final day of the tournament at the Alaska Airlines center on Saturday. Both West Anchorage and Kenai Central swept their opponents on Friday night to advance to their respective title tilts.
The Eagles incredible run through the tournament has resulted in their first trip back to the state finals since 2018, when their current class of seniors was still in eighth grade.
“All I have been saying is that I want to play in that game,” senior middle hitter Quincy Brown said. “This is everything for me right now and I’m so excited for my team. We’ve really been working hard and especially this tournament.”
On Friday, West played an exciting match against Colony in which the first and third sets were incredibly close. West won both — 26-24 and 27-25 — and dominated the Knights in the middle set, winning 25-11. It marked their third straight win in a row over a quality opponent at state.
“I’m so proud of my team, we’ve worked so hard to get this far,” senior outside hitter Reece Kowal said. “It was a struggle for a while but we made it through.”
West was largely unable to close out matches against better competition heading into the state tournament but has looked like a more resilient and battle-tested team. The initial turning point occurred on Thursday morning in their opening match against the Wasilla Warriors, where the Eagles rallied back from down 2-0 to win in five.
“Our attitude has really been holding us back this entire season and in our first match against Wasilla we kind of had this breakthrough,” Brown said. “I don’t even know what it was but we all just learned to get out of our heads and support each other and it is making the biggest difference that I have ever seen.”
She was happy when the team finally got the “Dimond monkey” off their collective backs when they beat the Lynx for the first time this season on Thursday night in their fourth attempt by sweeping them 3-0.
They could possibly face the Lynx for a fifth and final time this year depending on how Saturday’s match between Dimond and Colony plays out at noon.
“We beat them once this year and I think we can do it again,” Kowal said.
Kenai Central cruises past Sitka to make third straight finals appearance
Kenai Central has taken a business-link approach to the 2022 edition of the state tournament.
The players were enthused but weren’t as ecstatic as a championship-game bound team might typically be after punching their ticket to the finals. That’s because the Kardinals know the job is not done.
“We have a goal in mind and that’s what we’re shooting for,” Kenai head coach Tracie Beck said. “I think they came in confident, not cocky …They’re excited but really looking forward to the next game.”
Excluding the 2020 season when there weren’t any state tournaments held due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kardinals will be making their third trip to the 3A state championship game
“(2020) was a heart breaker because we were undefeated that season and the juniors that got second the year before in state were ready to come back but that canceled the rest of their senior season,” Beck said.
The Kardinals controlled their match with with Wolves from start to finish in each set. They won the first 25-16, the second 25-21, and the third 25-17.
“Our servers and passers were on point so that makes everybody else look fantastic,” Beck said. “Hitters did a great job too but the passes were right on.”
Kenai has never won a state title in history of the program and claiming their first on Saturday would be a “big deal” for their community, according to Beck. The team hosted regions this season for the first time in eight years and played for an enthusiastic crowd.
“Our band rocked our gym this year, our fans were crazy loud and excited so it’d mean the world to our community,” Beck said.
[Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Kardinal, the Kenai Central mascot.]