Redemption: Valdez spikers claim 2021 3A State Championship

Published: Nov. 14, 2021 at 11:48 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - One year and one month ago, high school volleyball teams and other athletes around Alaska received the devastating news that they would not get an opportunity to compete for a state championship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Valdez Buccaneers volleyball team was a favorite to come out of the Aurora Conference when their season was canceled. Rather than sulk, the Bucs used it as motivation to bounce back even stronger the following year, and the Bucs are now back on top of the Class 3A volleyball world for the third time since 2015 after defeating the Kenai Kardinals in five sets during the ASAA/First National Bank state volleyball championships on Saturday at the Alaska Airlines Center.

“I’m hyped, I can’t believe we pulled that off,” Masen Holmes said. “I know everybody is proud of us. I am proud of my whole team.”

Holmes was named Player of the Game during the five-set win over Kenai to secure the 3A title. Valdez swept the Monroe Catholic Rams to open the 2021 state tournament, but their path to the trophy only got tougher. The Bucs escaped a five-set thriller with the Stika Wolves to advance to the semifinals, where they would meet the resilient Kardinals, who were hoping to claim the program’s first ever state title. Valdez narrowly took the first two sets, before allowing Kenai to claw back and force a fifth and decisive set, where the Bucs composed themselves to waltz into the state championship match.

The tenacious Kardinals took down the Homer Mariners in a five set bout to set up a rematch from the laborious battle with the Bucs less than 24 hours before.

On Friday it was Valdez who jumped out to a two set advantage, but on Saturday, it was Kenai taking the commanding lead. The Bucs knew they had only one loss during the tournament, and would have had to lose to Kenai twice in a row, including the ‘if game’ to be knocked out of the double elimination tournament. But the Bucs weren’t interested in an ‘if game’.

Showing no timidity, Valdez played as if each point was their last, shifting the momentum with a 25-20 win during the third set before controlling the fourth set 25-16. Trailing 13-12 during the fifth set, perfect placement from a Peyton Wade kill knotted the match at 13 apiece, before Momoe Togaage’s kill at the net put the Bucs one point away from glory. Securing the net, Alyvia Askren tapped home the final point to bring the state championship trophy back to Valdez.

“The game winning point that I did, it was just an amazing feeling, like, we just won state. It is the best moment in the world.” Askren added.

2021 3A All-Tournament Team

Masen Holmes - Valdez

Ambrosia Woodgate - Valdez

Momoe Togaage - Valdez

Valerie Villegas - Kenai Central

Amanda Galloway - Kenai Central

Emma Beck - Kenai Central

Jorgi Phillips - Kenai Central

Chloe Morrison - Sitka

Zoe Adkins - Homer

Gracie Gummer - Homer

Anna Endres - Seward

Sophia Stepovich - Monroe Catholic

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