The third time was the charm for the South Anchorage High School volleyball team as it downed the previously undefeated Bartlett Golden Bears to take the gold-bracket championship of the West Valley Invitational on Saturday at West Valley High School.

The Wolverines entered Saturday’s double-elimination round in second place (8-1) after losing to the first place (9-0) Golden Bears in pool play on Friday. The two teams met again in the second round of gold bracket play where Bartlett again beat South, sending the Wolverines to the consolation side of the bracket.

 “I think we just let our mistakes get in our head,” said Wolverines hitter Sarah Robinson. “We focused on them and didn’t get over them.”

 In their first consolation contest, South downed the Palmer Moose in a three-game set to battle their way back to the championship match where they faced Bartlett for the third time.

 The Wolverine hitters, led by tournament MVP Sarina Gribbin, smashed their way to an early lead in the opening set. The Golden Bears struggled to respond, resulting in a 25-13 win for South.

 “We were a lot more positive. We played a lot stronger,” said Gribbin.

 Bartlett opened the second set with a 3-0 run before a string of serving errors allowed South to gain the lead once again and end the match up 25-12.

“We just started to look down on ourselves when we made mistakes,” said the Golden Bears’ Sierra Fainuulellei. “I have a lot of respect for South; they have good hitters and good blocks.”

 The win by South led to a third-set tiebreaker in which the first team to score 30 points would be declared the champion.

 In the third set, the Wolverines dominated once again with a strong showing from their outside hitters and a defense that blocked most the Golden Bears attack attempts.

 “We were just talking more and getting excited,” Robinson said. “We were having fun.”

 The Wolverines won the final set 30-23, to take first place in the gold bracket and first overall in the tournament, while the Golden Bears finished in second place.

 The North Pole Patriots were the top Interior team, finishing in fourth place overall.

 In other tournament play, the Barrow Whalers defeated the Lathrop Malemutes 25-19, 19-25, 15-7 to take first place in the Red Bracket and sixth place overall, while the Malemutes dropped to seventh. The host West Valley Wolfpack finished in ninth place out of 10 teams.

Six Interior players were named to the all-tournament team including Ainsley Smith and Lara Donovan of North Pole; Raven Drake (Hutchison), TT Tagovailoa (Lathrop), Chloe Maynard (Monroe Catholic) and Pam Noll (West Valley).

Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7586.

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