Athletes of the Week: Undefeated East Anchorage volleyball has arrived

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 11:24 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The East Anchorage volleyball team has arrived.

It may be early in the season, but the Thunderbirds are putting the rest of the Cook Inlet Conference on notice.

With four combined conference wins in the last two seasons, the T-Birds have already exceeded that win total through six games with a 6-0 record.

“The biggest thing is they believe,” second-year head coach Garrett Danner said. “That’s our motto, is ‘We Believe,’ and they’re starting to believe with the first win, a big win against Service, and just has been a domino effect ever since.”

After sweeping Service to start the year, the Thunderbirds swept their next two opponents before facing the defending state champion Dimond Lynx, a program they haven’t defeated in several years.

East came away with a thrilling five-set victory to remain perfect.

”Dimond is a very respectable and powerful school,” junior outside hitter Jirah Boma said. “And East — when people think of East, they’re thinking it’s a light game, but East beat that team!”

“It felt great to beat them and stay undefeated because I hate saying, ‘Aw man we lost to Dimond’ because it is always that,” senior Mariaha Afuvai added. “We always lose to Dimond. It’s Dimond always — like nah, nah, nah, it’s East on top today, it’s East on top this year!”

”Beating Dimond was huge, it means we belong this year,” Danner added. “If you saw how we celebrated, it was just natural. Dimond is just a staple program, and to beat them was like winning state.”

While diving for digs and setting up spikes has put them on top, it’s the team’s bond that is going to keep them there.

“I’d say off the court, we’re really close,” Boma said. “Every day we hang out with each other.”

“They play as a family and they don’t quit,” Danner said. “They just play every ball like it’s their last, and they have each other’s back and trusting the system and the process and it just has been successful for us.”

Both coach and player hope that it is a new era of East volleyball.

“It feels really good to be a part of it and live through it, because that was my goal freshman year, to make it to state,” Boma said.

“[We want to be a program that] If your daughter comes here, volleyball is going to be instilled in them, success is a part of our program, we work hard,” Danner said. ”I knew we were going to be good, but I didn’t know how good. Even now, I still pinch myself, ‘Is this real?’ Because it could just blow up and evaporate ... but every game they are proving it is real and that is what we’re going to do. Every game, prove that it is real.”