A veteran Craig Lady Panthers volleyball team outpointed the Kayhi Lady Kings in straight sets Saturday afternoon at Ketchikan High School.
Craig's win (25-19, 25-8, 25-17)  in the Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium was the Lady Kings' final regular season contest ahead of next weekend's Region V championship tournament in Juneau.
After the match, coach Arnold Ibias said he told the team that: "Our season starts now."
And it's starting with a roster that's evolved substantially. With three juniors, three sophomores and six freshmen, the current edition Lady Kings are an enthusiastic team-in-progress.
The fun energy that they can bring to the court was in evidence Saturday when, during player introductions, they led the gym in singing happy birthday to a Craig player.
Immediately thereafter, Kayhi opened up a 6-0 lead in the first set on two set-to-kill combinations with Molly Sivertsen setting to Chelsey Weber, a service ace from Bella Westfall-Zink and a block by Kylie Brendible.
But after Kayhi sprinted to a 10-2 margin, the Lady Panthers started a slow march to even up the score at 15-15, collecting three kills from McKenna Taylor, two from Faith Homer and one from Shayla Swetzof, along with aces from Taylor and Swetzof.
Craig then moved ahead as Kayhi struggled with its passing, and incurred a net infraction.
The teams traded hitting and service errors, punctuated by Craig kills from Amiaya Hansen and Swetzof, with the Lady Kings still keeping things close until the 22-19 mark.
That's when Craig put the first set away with a kill by Julia Smith, followed by an ace from Swetzof and a closing kill by Hansen.
The second set proved to be a clinic on serving by Craig's Makenna Taylor.
Picking up the serve with Craig leading 3-1, Taylor kept the serve until being subbed out with the score at 17-1. Her jump serve was consistently fast and low-trajectory, producing six-straight aces during one stretch and otherwise vexing the Lady Kings efforts to get in a good first pass during most other points.
After Taylor's exit, Craig's Swetzof tipped in a kill and Olivia Vickers hit an ace before a Lady Panthers hitting error gave Kayhi its second point of the match at 19-2.
Craig errors helped bring the tally to 22-6 before Kayhi's Arlinn Felarca hit two aces to complete the Lady Kings' scoring at 22-8. The Lady Panthers then finished the set with two consecutive kills by Alissa Durgan, and a service ace from Hansen.
The third set started like the second set — with a kill from Kayhi's Weber.
Craig turned the tables quickly, though, taking an 8-4 lead on the strength of kills by Julia Smith, Hansen and Swetzof along with aces from Durgan and Taylor. Durgan had at least two setting assists during that stretch.
The Lady Kings stayed quiet until late in the match. Facing a 21-9 deficit, Addison Lewis provided a spark with a service ace before Molly Sivertsen provided the fire with two tip-over kills and a set to Westfall-Zink for another kill.
After Sivertsen's second kill, Craig called a time out to regroup with the score at 23-16.
On the next point, a Kayhi hitting error sent the game to set point at 24-16. Craig returned the favor with a service error before a Durgan-to-Hansen combination ended the set at 25-17 and the match at 3-0, all in Craig's favor.
Ibias said after the match he thought that the Lady Kings' energy was better on Saturday than it had been during the 3-0 loss to the Klawock Chieftains on Friday evening.
Maintaining a strong energy level among the players has been a focus for Ibias.
"It's something that we've been working on all season," Ibias said, emphasizing that while coaches and others can be enthusiastic and energetic, ultimately, it's the energy level of the players on the court that counts. "... You have to bring this. You have to do it."
"I'm hoping that some of the energy that we had today will carry over to (the Region V tournament) next weekend," he continued. "We definitely have a chance. We have a long road, and uphill battle, for that chance to happen."
The Lady Kings this weekend were without veteran setter Taylor Jackson, an all-tournament player in the recent Juneau JIVE event who was out on a previously planned absence.
Jackson is central to Kayhi's offense with her precision sets and an ability to collect a wayward pass and make a positive play.
"They've come to rely on the fact that we can make a bad pass and she's going to get to it," Ibias said.
The weekend's games helped highlight the need for quality passing and provided real-game practice in adjusting to circumstances.
Today, I felt like the passing was better when we were passing the ball and we weren't letting them ace us out," Ibias said.
But when we were getting to the ball and making passes, they were actually usable passes, and that's a huge difference from yesterday and even two weekends ago.
"So the progress is there," he continued. "Really, right now, it's just a mindset of 'We can do this. We've beat them before. We can do this.' I think we're there. Only time will tell."
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Klawock Chieftains 3
Kayhi Lady Kings JV 1
The Lady Kings JV squad surprised the Klawock Chieftains on Saturday morning, posting a wild, 27-25 first set win and competing well in sets two and three before the visitors clinched a 3-1 match win.
Klawock came into Saturday's match having swept the Kayhi varsity 3-0 on Friday evening.
They quickly found themselves down 3-0, courtesy of a Klawock service error, hitting error and an ace from Kayhi's Addison Lewis.
The Chieftains pulled even at 3-3 on an ace from McKinley Holien and took the lead on the next point. The lead then changed hands twice before Klawock edged ahead, 12-9.
Then Kayhi tied it up at 13-13.
And so it went, with Klawock moving ahead and Kayhi staying within striking distance until the Lady Kings evened the score at 21-21 on an ace by Czara Cabillo.
Along the way, the Lady Kings were playing with spirit, extending points with some good defensive digs and passing. Libero Morgan DeLaet scored a kill from the backcourt. Natalie Klose got a block. Brooklyn Zarate coaxed a serve just off the net for an ace. After Kayhi won a net battle to go up 22-21, Klawock called a time out.
It proved beneficial. On the next point, a Chieftain kill tied the game at 22-22. But Kayhi regained the lead on a nice set by Addison Lewis to Arlinn Felarca for a kill. But Klawock evened it up at 23-23 on a tip-over kill by Holien, her fourth kill of the set.
A block by Kaiya Marvin then gave the Chieftains their sixth lead of the set.
But, down 24-23 and staring at set point, the Lady Kings got the benefit of a Klawock service error before an ace by Lewis provided the Lady Kings with their fifth lead of the set. The Chieftains then tied it up again, 25-25.
Finally, though, a Klawock service error followed by a net infraction produced a 27-25 set win for the Lady Kings.
In the second set, an immediate Klawock kill and ace sequence launched the visitors into a lead that Kayhi countered with the same cycle in a backcourt kill from DeLaet and an ace by Chloe Larna.
From there, Kayhi had some trouble defending against the serve. Klawock's Holien hit three aces before a block by Natalie Klose ended the six-serve run.
The Chieftains' Marvin quickly got the serve back with a well-placed kill into the center of Kayhi's defense, and then she hit three aces during the course of a six-serve run that raised Klawock's lead to 16-5.
But Kayhi had some aces of their own — one from Cabillo and three from Felarca — to help the Lady Kings narrow the gap to 18-13 and prompt a Klawock timeout.
But the inertia — despite a Lewis set into a kill by Klose — stayed with Klawock through to the 25-14 conclusion.
The third set saw the Lady Kings fall behind early despite a pair of kills by Larna from sets by Lewis and Klose, and some good passing along the way by Kylie Lopez.
Kayhi tied the set at 8-8 on another Lewis to Larna kill, and stayed within at least four points of Klawock up until 19-16. The Chieftains then took advantage of miscues to close out the third set at 25-16.
The fourth set started well for the Lady Kings with a pair of aces from Lewis. But after tieing the set at 2-2 and 3-3, the Chieftains pulled away for a 25-8 win.
Klawock got aces from Aaliyah Kato (one), Holien (four), Ashlyn Anderson (two), and kills from Kato (one), Marvin (two), Armour (three), and Hailey Hedges (two).
Kayhi had a kill from Fallarca.
Lady Kings' libero Morgan DeLaet had a strong match anchoring the back court defense for Kayhi. The freshman player also got some playing time in the varsity matches this weekend.
Ibias, noting that varsity libero Brenna Winder had a good weekend series — which included several offense plays in which she received sets from the front line for her to take swings from the back court, said he was encouraged by DeLaet's play.
"You saw moments of it today," Ibias said. "... I think she's going to help us a lot in the back row, where if we can the pass, our hitters, they can put the ball away."