The Wolverines scratch and claw their way to the ASAA 4A volleyball state title

Published: Nov. 14, 2021 at 3:36 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - South Anchorage High School beat A.J. Dimond High School in the ASAA/First National Bank volleyball state championship match after forcing an ‘if needed’ match of just one set, winning the final set 30-24 at the Alaska Airlines Center.

The Wolverines road to the 4A championship match was anything but straight. After sweeping their first match against North Pole they went against rival West Anchorage and lost 3-1 in the second round, dropping them down to the losers bracket. The Wolverines then played what was probably their cleanest match of the tournament against Palmer, winning in straight sets. South then faced another Valley team in the Colony Knights, who gave South everything they could handle going five sets, but South would prevail 15-10.

Then it was a rematch with the team that sent them down to the losers bracket, West Anchorage. Only this time, their tournament lives were on the line; win and go to the championship game, lose and settle for second place. After dropping the first set 25-18, doubt started to creep in. However that was quickly squashed when they returned the favor and won 25-18 in the second set. South would go on to win the match 3-1 and advance to the championship match later that day.

" We were used to the court,” South Senior and All-American Elizabeth Johnson said. “In the previous two days of state we played the smaller courts, and we didn’t play in this big arena with this one court and all the bleachers are out. So by playing West earlier today it kind of gave us an advantage almost.”

Dimond was waiting for South in the championship match. The Lynx hadn’t dropped a match all tournament and had only lost three sets combined. Before the match, players enter the court through a video board arch, which also blows faux smoke for an extra-dramatic entrance. It was not long after the match started that it seemed the smoke was coming off the Wolverines due to their fiery play on the court.

South won the first set 25-19, making a statement. The Lynx responded by winning a nail biter of a second set 25-22. South head coach Amy Mestas must have had quite the speech after the dropped set because after that it was all Wolverines. Winning the next to sets 25-11 and 25-19! However the state tournament is a double elimination format, So since Dimond hadn’t lost yet an “if” set was played.

An “if needed” set is in the event that both teams have just one loss after the traditional championship game. The teams then play one game to 30 points, and the first team to score 30 wins. After South beat Dimond 3-1 in the final game of the state championship bracket, it all came down to the final set to 30 to decide the 2021 state championship.

“The game is a game of errors. You have people, I mean people—they hit the ball out, you hit the ball out—it goes back and forth. And it really comes down to, our coach likes to tells us the best play in the world will only get you one point, and the worst play will only lose you one and so you can completely mess up the ball and only loses you one point and it comes back to wanting every single point and fighting as hard as you possibly can for it.” South Senior and All-American Hanna Henrie said.

That type of wisdom helped South win the “if needed” match and the state championship title 30-24. When the final ball—fittingly hit by Henrie—hit the floor on the Dimond side, emotions poured out of the Wolverines.

“Euphoria, it was amazing. My best friend—number one Hanna Henrie—she and I have had, she has had this goal forever and I just looked at her and her face was priceless, it was amazing” Johnson said.

Even though South was the champion of the night, the real story of this volleyball season was the battle for supremacy between Dimond, West and South. All three teams held the title of best team in the state at one point throughout the year, but the only difference is now one team gets to say they are the best for the coming year until the next season starts: the South Anchorage Wolverines.

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