Volley

Ketchikan High School’s Lindsay Byron (11) reaches to return the ball back to Sitka High School’s Jocelyn Brady on Oct. 25, 2019 at Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium. Byron is entering her sophomore season with the Lady Kings, and will be one of the leaders on this year’s squad. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

It’s an obvious statement — the ultimate goal, for a high school coach, is to win a state championship.

Every high-level coach in every part of the country dreams of that.

But this year isn’t like every other year.

Looking into a sports crystal ball, there are only question marks of uncertainty — and it’s “one day at a time.”

“It’s hard for a coach to say that it’s not about wins and losses — because, as a coach, for me, it is about wins and losses,” Kevin Johnson said.

Johnson is entering his second season as the Ketchikan High School Lady Kings head volleyball coach.

“But truly, in saying that,” he continued, “this year, it’s not about wins and losses. Anytime we get a chance to put somebody on the floor, that’s a win.”

Not to say that the Lady Kings are lined up to win a state title this season — and not to say that they aren’t.

But in the era of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the “one day” approach works pretty well.

“Right now, we won for three days (in a row),” Johnson said. “We had 38 kids come back every day.”

The Lady Kings had to trim that number to 24, which wasn’t easy.

Not only did every single girl surpass Johnson and his coaching staff’s expectations on the volleyball court. Emotionally, they just wanted to give the group of teenagers something to do — something to take their minds off of every day life outside the gym.

“It’s been really mentally challenging, I think, for every person, as well as emotionally challenging,” Johnson said. “And then, to have this many kids — good, athletic kids — come out and want to play. That’s awesome. ...

“We’ll get (it) down to 24 kids. We’re going to let go 14 kids,” he continued. “And what’s sad about that is that’s 14 kids, and they’re struggling too, mentally. ... I think this pandemic that we’re going through is really playing havoc on our children.”

Throughout the entire volleyball program — varsity, junior varsity, and the C squad — the Lady Kings will have four seniors, five juniors, four sophomores and 11 freshmen.

Official team practices start Wednesday.

“It’s hard for me to dive in; it’s hard for the kids to dive in,” Johnson said. “I mean, it’s like we’re on hold. We’re going to give it everything we can. But it’s really hard to tell a 14-or 15-year-old, ‘Hey, give it all you can. But just remember, (we might not be here next week).’”

The coronavirus pandemic — and each individual’s approach to health and safety measures — will dictate that.

Who knows how that crystal ball will play out.

But for the time being, every day on the court is a win.

And so far, the Lady Kings are undefeated.

“I’m really proud of the kids,” Johnson said. “All of the girls that came to tryouts, our staff is just so proud of them.”

Playing against other teams

The Lady Kings actually having a volleyball season is 100% dependent on the community — and opposing communities — as the risk level of the novel coronavirus pandemic, put out by the Emergency Operations Center, will decide if high school games can be played.

“It’s all dependent on the risk level of each community,” Johnson said. “So for example, we were already supposed to have played in Anchorage three times. But we can’t go to Anchorage because they’re at a high-risk level, so we can’t travel (there). You can’t take a low-risk level and travel to a high-risk level.”

The Lady Kings are currently scheduled to host Grace Christian School on Friday, Sept. 11 and Saturday, Sept. 12. Grace Christian is open to full capacity this school year, just like the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District.

“They’re outside of Anchorage, so they’re risk level is (lower),” Johnson said. “But remember, (Ketchikan’s) just went up.”

Grace Christian was originally supposed to come to the First City, along with Kodiak and Thunder Mountain high schools, for a four-team tournament. But because of the risk levels in Kodiak and Juneau, Grace Christian is the only school still planning on coming to town.

“We have to be flexible and hope for the best,” Johnson said. “That’s all we can do.”

One big, happy family

The final varsity, junior varsity and C squad rosters have not been set, but here is the complete Lady Kings’ volleyball team:

Zoe Rouleau, senior; Delaney Ingman, senior; Savannah Yeisley, senior; Lyla Seludo, senior; Jayden Taylor, junior; Hayley Gilson, junior; Chloe Gosnell, junior; Jenae Rhoads, junior; Demi Ingle, junior; Lindsay Byron, sophomore; Reilly McCue, sophomore; Allie Thomas, sophomore; Faith Easterly, sophomore; Taylor Jackson, freshman; Bree Johnson, freshman; Hope Call, freshman; Rylie Welk, freshman; Marley Lewis, freshman; Logenn Merrill, freshman; Isabella Zink, freshman; Johanna Werth, freshman; Stevie Kamm, freshman; Linnea Loretan, freshman; Gaby Tirado, freshman.

*Names courtesy of Ketchikan High School volleyball.