FAIRBANKS—The host Hutchison Hawks built momentum during Friday afternoon’s semifinal match against the top-seeded Valdez Buccaneers in the Aurora Conference Volleyball Tournament.
The third-seeded Hawks, though, just couldn’t sustain the momentum against the hard-hitting Buccaneers, who won 25-18, 25-15, 25-18 to move into the winner’s bracket final at noon today.
“A surge that was kind of short-circuited it seemed at times,” Hutchison head coach Linda Bode said of the bright moments that the Hawks had but couldn’t build on.
Hutchison, 9-8 overall, earlier swept the fifth-seeded Delta Junction Huskies (25-12, 25-19, 25-14) in the first round, where the fourth-seeded Eielson Ravens also won 25-8, 25-15, 25-5 against the sixth-seeded Galena Hawks.
A particularly bright moment for Hutchison against Valdez was a 7-0 run in the third set after the Buccaneers led 11-4.
Sophomore outside hitter Annalee Tidwell dumped one of her team-high six kills to initiate the surge and senior defensive specialist Yata Davis took over by serving six straight points, getting the Buccaneers to shank four of the serves.
Hutchison’s third-set surge also benefited from its back row players, particularly sophomore defensive specialist Elle Veazey, who finished the afternoon with a match-high 44 digs.
“She played a good, solid back row,” Bode said.
Davis analyzed Valdez’s defense before releasing each of her serves, most of them floaters.
“I then take a deep breath, and sometimes I do it (serve) short and sometimes deep,” she said. “It all depends on how the person really reacts to the ball floating because I do a lot of floating serves. “
“They (Hutchison) depend on me for my serves because I’m very consistent,” Davis added.
Her consistency led Buccaneers coach Rhonda Wegner to call a timeout following the 11-11 tie.
“It was all about staying focused; that’s one of our team’s biggest problems is staying focused,” said senior outside hitter Sidne Mann, who contributed six kills for Valdez, one less than senior teammate Shilo Nease’s match high.
“She (Wegner) called a timeout and we all got our mindset back, and we went out and took over,” Mann continued.
Hitting helped carry the Buccaneers to a 9-0 record in Aurora Conference play during the regular season. It helped carry them to the sweep of Hutchison and into the winner’s bracket final against the winner of Friday’s other semifinal between Eielson and the second-seeded Monroe Catholic Rams. The team that succeeds in the winner’s bracket final advances to the Class 3A state tournament next Thursday through Saturday in Wasilla.
“I want us to have a lot of fun and win every game,” Mann said of the winner’s bracket final. “We don’t want to lose a match or a set: we want to come out hard.”
The winner of today’s match at noon also plays for the Aurora tournament title at 5:15 tonight against the top team from the loser’s bracket. If the loser’s bracket representative wins the final, an “if necessary” game to 30 points will be played at 7 p.m. to determine the tournament champion and the conference’s top seed for the state tournament.
The Aurora tournament runner-up also advances to the state tournament at the Curtis Menard Sports Center.
Valdez placed fifth in last year’s state tournament and Eielson placed seventh.
Monroe Catholic ad-vanced to today’s showdown with Valdez by posting a 27-25, 25-19, 18-25, 25-7 triumph against the pesky Eielson Ravens.
The Rams rallied from a 19-9 deficit in the first set in an up-and-down match, before finally dominating the Ravens in the fourth set.
Alyssa Norris led the Rams at the net with 13 kills and six blocks. Marissa King added 11 kills, while Andi Clark had nine, Emily Pfister registered eight and Brittany Johnson tallied six.
Delainey Stokes put up 20 assists, while Andi Clark had 12.
“Our serve receive wasn’t very strong tonight,” Monroe coach Mike Lessley said. “We just had too much bad passing.”
Lessley said the Rams will have to improve their passing game in order to hang with Valdez in today’s noon showdown.
“The name of the game is pass, set, spike,” Lessley said. “If we can’t pass, out setter can’t set and our hitter can’t hit. We were fortunate to hit tonight.”
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.