FAIRBANKS — The Monroe Catholic Rams came up short on their bid to win the Aurora Conference high school volleyball tournament Saturday night, but the Rams still get an opportunity to play in next weekend’s Class 3A state championships in Wasilla.
The Valdez Buccaneers beat the Rams twice on Saturday at Hutchison High School to capture the double-elimination tournament title.
Monroe will go to the state tournament as the conference’s second seed. The last time the Rams went to state as the No. 2 seed they finished in second place.
Monroe opened Saturday’s action against Valdez with a epic five set match. The Rams won the first two sets, but the Buccaneers didn’t back down and captured an 18-25, 21-25, 25-17, 25-20, 16-14 victory.
We came in the first two games and played our game and had a minimum of unforced errors,” said Monroe Catholic coach Mike Lessley, who was named the conference’s Coach of the Year during Saturday night’s awards ceremony.
“Then we kind of set back and played not to win,” Lessley said. “We started making unforced errors and you can’t do that against a team like Valdez.”
The Rams led the fifth set 13-12 and had the serve, but Valdez managed to pull out the win.
The loss dropped the Rams into the losers’ bracket where they faced the host Hutchison Hawks for the right to play Valdez in the championship game.
Hutchison defeated Eielson earlier in the day to get a shot at Monroe Catholic.
Monroe beat the Hawks 25-15, 25-13, 18-25, 25-16 to eliminate Hutchison from the tournament.
“Our transition picked up as the match went on,” Lessley said.
Valdez beat Monroe Catholic
25-6, 26-25, 25-17 in the title game.
“We played a strong second game, then we just ran out of gas,” Lessley said.
The state tournament, which runs Thursday through Saturday at the Curtis Menard Center in Wasilla is a single-elimination tournament with a consolation bracket for opening round losers.
“My girls have a lot of bumps and bruises because they played hard this weekend,” Lessley said. “The next stage for us is state and I’m sure they’ll be ready.”
Sidne Mann led Valdez and was named the conference’s Most Valuable Player. Her teammates Shilo Nease, Mikaela Hill and Chaylene Mills also earned all-conference honors.
Monroe Catholic’s Marissa King, Emily Pfister, Delainey Stokes and Alyssa Norris earned all-conference honors along with Hutchison’s Jessica Speed and Caroline Everts, Eielson’s Nikki Gaikowski and Sarah Fry and Delta Junction’s Diana Linnik.