Lady Whalers claim state runner-up honors
The Barrow Lady Whalers capped an outstanding 2017 volleyball season this past weekend by racing to the state runner-up honors at the ASAA /First National Bank Alaska Class 3A State Volleyball Championships in Anchorage. The Lady Whalers went 4-2 in the tournament, which was held on Nov. 10-11 at West High School.
With its outing at the state tournament, Barrow finished its season at 23-3.
The defending Western Conference champions, the Lady Whalers rallied back from a stunning first-round loss to work its way through a talented field in the loser's bracket to earn a berth in the championship game against Valdez on Saturday.
In the finals, Barrow held its own. Keyed by the play of Milya Wright, the BHS girls jumped out to an early 13-10 lead in Game 1 of the best-of-five championship game.
The Lady Buccaneers answered back, however. Valdez reeled off a 15-3 run in the final moments of the first set and raced to a 25-16 win.
Barrow fought its way back in Game 2. Crystalynn Tula'i and Kuutuuq Danner joined with Wright to help Barrow get off to another quick start in Game 2. The Lady Whalers built a lead, going up by several points midway through the stanza.
Valdez, again, managed to survive. The Lady Buccaneers closed Game 2 with a flurry and netted a 25-21 decision to go up 2-0.
Valdez, which netted its second state volleyball championship in the last three years, turned fresher legs into a 25-13 win in the final set.
The Lady Whalers, who had entered the tournament at 19-1, were dealt a tough blow early in the tournament. Mt. Edgecumbe, the 2016 state champion, escaped with a nail-biting 20-25, 27-25, 21-25, 25-10, 15-13 victory in Thursday's first-round action.
With the loss, Barrow slipped into the consolation bracket and a showdown with Southcentral Conference champion Nikiski. Wright and the Lady Whalers showed little sign of a letdown from their first-round loss against the Lady Bulldogs. Barrow ousted Nikiski from the double-elimination field with a 3-0 victory on Friday morning, winning 25-14, 25-23, 25-19.
Only a few hours after downing Nikiski, the BHS girls took to the court for the second of their three consolation bouts during the day. In the consolation quarterfinals, Barrow easily dispatched Sitka 25-10, 25-23 and 25-16.
The win over Sitka moved Barrow into the consolation semifinals to face off with Western Conference rival Kotzebue.
Like Barrow, Kotzebue had rallied back nicely from a stunning first-round loss to make its way through the consolation bracket. Grace Christian, on Thursday, had put Kotzebue's back against the wall by claiming a wild five-game match. After dropping the first game by a slim 25-23 margin, the Lady Huskies hit stride. Kotzebue put the Lady Lions on the verge of a first-round loss by storming back to win the next two games, 25-15 and 25-16.
Grace Christian forced a fifth game by winning Game 4, 25-15.
In the decisive game, the Lady Huskies pushed Grace to the limit, fighting to a 14-14 tie. Unfortunately for the Lady Huskies, a service error gave the Lady Lions a 15-14 lead, and the ball, which they quickly turned into a game-winning point.
Following the setback to Grace Christian, Kotzebue got back on track with a 3-1 rout of Hutchison in their consolation opener. The Lady Huskies ousted Hutchison from the eight-team field with a 23-25, 25-17, 25-12, 25-14 victory.
Kotzebue, which was led by the play of all-tournament selections Caitlin Conwell and Cassidy Kramer, followed up its win over Hutchison with an even bigger victory in the second round, downing Mt. Edgecumbe in three games, 25-10, 25-18, 25-19.
Barrow ended Kotzebue's bid to reach the finals, winning a tight 25-22, 25-21, 19-25, 25-16 battle. The Lady Whalers finished off their march through the loser's bracket on Saturday morning by taking down Grace Christian in the consolation finals in five games, 25-18, 22-25, 21-25, 25-20, 15-12.
Grace Christian had slipped into the consolation finals with a loss to Valdez on Friday.