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Ketchikan High School junior Alanna Berry spikes the ball on Oct. 6, during the Lady Kings' 3-0 loss to Juneau-Douglas in the Clarke Cochrane Gym. Staff photo by Taylor Balkom

Daily News Sports Editor

This season has been somewhat of a learning experience for Ketchikan High School head volleyball coach Beth Sandefur.

Sandefur is close to finishing up her first season at the helm of the Lady Kings, as they prepare to host the 2017 Region V 3A/4A volleyball tournament on Friday and Saturday.

A teacher for the past 17 years, Sandefur said that there are some similarities between teaching and coaching, even though there exist quite a few differences between the two.

“Pretty much every week, there has been some ‘a-ha’ moment,” Sandefur said on Thursday afternoon. “It's definitely been a big learning experience for me.”

From becoming acclimated to the Southeast volleyball culture, to meeting and befriending other coaches from across the region, Sandefur said that she has still learned quite a few things since the season officially opened on Aug. 2.

“Part of the learning is just getting to know people and networking,” Sandefur said. “Seeing the camaraderie has been really wonderful.”

On the court, Sandefur’s team will take on Thunder Mountain High School at 4 p.m. on Friday to get the 4A portion of the tournament started.

In addition to Thunder Mountain, Juneau-Douglas, Sitka and Mount Edgecumbe high schools will be attendance this weekend.

Kayhi has squared up against all of these teams at some point during the season, whether it's been at home, or in Juneau or Anchorage.

Sandefur said she is hopeful that the level of familiarity Kayhi has with the four visiting schools in the tournament to benefit Kayhi once competition gets underway.

“We’ve seen Thunder Mountain and Juneau-Douglas,” Sandefur said. “We’ve seen both of them here and in Juneau and Anchorage; we feel like we have a pretty good sense of what we need to do.”

The first-year head coach went on to say that her players are rather excited to take the court, even after recently coming off two consecutive roadtrips — the second of which lasted six days.

Once the expected fatigue wore off, Sandefur said it was pretty much business as usual for her team.

“We were all just exhausted,” Sandefur said. “There was kind of a lull last week, but this week (the players) are super energetic and very excited about the tournament and playing at home.”

Kayhi has played a majority of its games away from the Clarke Cochrane Gym this season. This weekend’s tournament gives the team a chance to provide local volleyball supporters with something to cheer about one last time.

Next season, Sandefur said there might be potential for Kayhi to play a few nonconference schools from the Southeast region on at the Cochrane Gym, but said there are positives to playing in tournaments away from Ketchikan for most of the year.

“Tournaments are really where we get a bulk of experience. In just a few days we play a ton of games, but we really would love to have more home games,” Sandefur said.

State budget and various funding issues have turned the world of volleyball in Southeast Alaska into a much smaller community of schools with just three 4A teams as its representatives.

“With the budget, it’s hard to schedule home games and do more traveling, even though it’s local,” Sandefur said. “It’s still a plane ticket and a ferry ride.”

After Kayhi plays Thunder Mountain on Friday to open tournament, the day’s 3A game will begin with Sitka and Mount Edgecumbe taking each other on at 6 p.m., with a rematch scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Juneau-Douglas will play the winner of the Kayhi-Thunder Mountain match at 8 p.m. to wrap up the first session of the tournament.