FAIRBANKS—The Lathrop Malemutes, with their upset Wednesday night at West Valley, may have set up a competitive Mid Alaska Conference tournament next week.
The Malemutes, despite being in last place heading into their final conference match of the regular season, pulled out a five-set victory — 25-8, 25-23, 25-27, *22-25, 17-15 — over the host Wolfpack.
Lathrop, which was coming off of Tuesday’s four-set road loss against the North Pole Patriots, ended conference play at 2-4. However, the Malemutes aren’t far behind the second-place Patriots (3-3) and the first-place Wolfpack (4-2).
“In our last two games against North Pole and West Valley, we’re finally starting to come together as a team,” Lathrop coach Joe Donoghue said by telephone. “We starting to gel, talk to each other on the court and really willing to put all the chips on the table and say ‘I’m playing with everything no matter what.’”
Senior outside hitter Christine Angell sparked the Malemutes with match-highs of 22 aces and 19 kills and she contributed 17 digs.
“I know she had seven aces in the first set,” Donoghue said. “They were barely getting their hands on them (serves) or shanking them.”
Lathrop (4-11 overall) also got match-bests of 35 assists from Abbi Walker and 19 digs from Emily Krier. Ruthie Hebard provided 14 kills for Lathrop while Yvonne Sam chipped in seven aces, Karli Fitzgerald compiled 12 digs and Mikayla Triplehorn added five kills.
Wolfpack coach Dave Cox said his squad didn’t resemble the team that defeated Eielson in four sets of a nonconference match Tuesday at West Valley.
“We never did step out on the court with that fire and energy we did last night,” Cox said. “We never got into a smooth groove with each other. It was just one of those nights we couldn’t get any momentum.”
Melissa Spaulding served 21 for 21 for West Valley with three aces, and she distributed 11 assists. Lauren Slater served 17 for 18 with four aces and she laid down sevenkills.
Nora Troppman led the Wolfpack with 12 kills, Emma Benjamin led with eight digs and Samantha Crawford led with seven blocks, with five for points.
Tori Howdeshell and Christina Bussell each had seven digs for West Valley (9-4 overall).
All of the Mid Alaska teams end the regular season with nonconference matches against Palmer.
Lathrop plays host to the Moose at 6 tonight at Ryan Middle School. Palmer visits North Pole at 6 Friday night and heads to West Valley for a noon match Saturday.
The Mid Alaska Conference Tournament takes place Nov. 2-3 at West Valley.