The top two teams in Region V, 2A volleyball tournament are set for a showdown on Friday in Klawock.
Second-seeded Craig swept past Skagway and Metlakatla on Thursday to advance to the winners’ bracket final at 12 p.m. against top-seeded Wrangell, which survived a tough semifinal battle from Klawock.
“Wrangell is one of the top teams in the state and we really enjoy playing them,” Craig coach Shannon Isaacs said. “It is quality competitive volleyball on both sides. We are looking forward to it.”
The victor of the winners’ bracket final will advance to Friday night’s championship game at 7 p.m. The loser will play in the losers’ bracket final at 3:30 p.m. with a chance to advance back to the championship. The top two teams from the region advance to state.
Wrangell went 11-0 against region teams during the regular season, including a come-from-behind 25-22, 16-25, 21-25, 25-20, 16-14 victory over Craig on Oct. 20. The Wolves are led by hard-hitting senior middle Kiara Harrison.
“When Kiara is on, she’s got that big swing and the ball hits the floor. She has some huge hits. I tell our players if the ball hits the floor for a point, they’ve earned it. And she earns her points,” Isaacs said. “We just have to play our best and make her earn it. We have to hope to get under her hits quickly and maybe just to keep serving to try to keep the ball away from her. We’ve been practicing to win, and I believe we can do it.”
Craig was paced on Thursday by senior Amiaya Hansen. The Panthers also had a couple of long service runs by different players to put games away.
“Craig is playing well. Their serving is really good and they have good defense. They match up pretty strong. We’re definitely going to have to play well,” Wrangell coach Alyssa Allen said.
After getting a first-round bye, Wrangell got a solid test from Klawock in its first match of the tournament, pulling out a 25-10, 25-23, 25-23 victory.
“It is kind of good for us to play some of these tighter games,” Allen said. “It makes us mentally tough.”
After bolting to an 18-5 lead and dominating the opening game by a 25-10 score, Wrangell found itself trailing for much of the second game.
The Wolves called time outs with Klawock leading 14-11 and then again at 20-14. After the second time, Wrangell began its comeback.
Harrison served for five points, including three ace serves, as Wrangell surged ahead 22-21. The teams traded sideouts for the next four points with Wrangell eventually serving for the match at 24-22.
A lift was called on the Wolves, leaving Klawock to serve trailing 24-23, but Harrison found an open spot in the defense to tap the ball into for the final point of a 25-23 win.
In the third game Wrangell kept a narrow lead for most of the contest, but could never pull away from Klawock. Klawock battled back from a 23-19 deficit to again serve trailing 24-23, but once again Harrison found a way to score the final point when her spike hit the net and dribbled across.
“(Harrison) for sure, we love having her,” Allen said. “When we can get a good pass she is always a great option for us. She plays all six positions for us. She’s a good server and a great passer and really can do everything on the court. She is a leader of our team out there. Our two seniors, Harrison and Brode Gardner have really provided some great leadership for us. Overall we are still a pretty young team.”
Gardner is the Wolves librero and paced a solid defensive effort for Wrangell.
“She passed the ball quite well for us,” Allen said. “It really helps to have her back there. She is a great communicator.”
Craig swept past Skagway in its opening match Thursday morning, then downed Metlakatla 25-16, 26-14, 25-19 in the winners’ bracket semifinals.
The Panthers jumped out to a big early lead in the opening game behind the serving of senior Alyssa Diergen then stayed in control behind the hitting of senior Amiaya Hansen. The Panthers again led from start to finish in the second game, but Metlakatla fought back in Game 3.
The MissChiefs built a 12-7 advantage before Hansen served for five points to tie the match. Metlakatla still led 16-14 before Craig took control and finished off the match.
“Hansen really led this team today,” Isaacs said. “She kept us in the morning game with her overall leadership and in the second game she has some amazing hits and great serves. She just kept us up with positive attitude and leadership.”
Besides Hansen and Taylor, Alexis Lawnicki and Shayla Swetzof had strong service games for the Panthers.
“We have a couple girls throughout the season that have been able to go on long service runs. We have different players that will step up, it isn’t always the same person. A lot of that also has to do with our defense and ability to keep the game going,” Isaacs said. “Our passing is one of our strong points and we have all-around smart players. They plays heads up and see what you are doing and know where they have to put the ball.”
In Wednesday’s opening round games, Klawock beat Petersburg 25-22, 19-25, 25-19, 25-17; and Metlakatla downed Haines 25-2, 25-15, 25-10. Metlakatla scored the first 16 points of its opening game before Haines got on the board.
In losers’ bracket action on Thursday, Haines eliminated Skagway 25-19, 24-26, 25-13, 25-17, and Metlakatla stayed alive with a 25-17, 25-19, 21-25, 25-21 victory over Petersburg.
Klawock beat Haines 25-14, 25-19, 22-25, 25-17 to advance to face Metlakatla at 1:45 p.m. Friday.