By CRAIG GIAMMONA
Courtesy Daily Sitka Sentinel
Teams may have figured out how to beat the Mt. Edgecumbe girls at the Region V volleyball tournament. But they can’t seem to beat the Lady Braves twice.
MEHS once again took the hard road through the Region V bracket in 2011, rallying to claim their fourth straight 3A Southeast title and fifth in six years.
The Lady Braves lost to second seed Petersburg Friday night, but rebounded to win three matches Saturday, including two over Petersburg, to stay atop the 3A volleyball world in Southeast.
“We’re excited and proud of the girls,” coach Rich Calkins said. “It means a lot. It’s something I was hoping we would do this year.”
Calkins said the regional title had added meaning this year because of the reclassification that will be implemented for the 2012 season, when Haines, Craig, Wrangell and Metlakatla will drop down to 2A. This was the final year of the traditional 3A Southeast conference, and Calkins wanted to go out on top. He said the Lady Braves, knowing they had more work to do, did not celebrate when they beat Haines Saturday to lock up a trip to state.
“That’s not our goal,” Calkins said. “Our goal has always been: win the league, win regionals, win state. Just to qualify for state was not what we were hoping to accomplish.”
After MEHS dispatched Haines in the state play-in game Saturday morning (25-7. 25-4. 19-25 and 25-13), the Lady Braves and Lady Vikings were the only teams standing in the double elimination tournament. The Lady Braves had lost to Petersburg Friday night in five games, and opened the championship series on the verge of elimination.
But MEHS played a tough match, sweeping the Lady Vikings in straight sets (25-20, 25-15 and 25-14) to force a winner-take-all rubber match.
Calkins said it was finally starting to feel like the Lady Braves had momentum and they raced to a 2-0 lead in the match with wins of 25-14 and 25-15. But Petersburg was not quite done yet. The Lady Vikings regrouped for a 25-22 win to extend the match, but the Lady Braves closed out their Southeast title with a 25-19 win in the fourth game. The Juneau Empire reported that Brenna Johanson and Taryn White combined for 22 kills in the decided match, while Donnita White and Katelyn Cook led in assists and digs.
Johanson, a senior from Hoonah, made the all-conference team for the third straight year. Maggie Okakok, Aquilina Active and Taryn White each made the all-conference team for the first time. Edgecumbe’s three seniors – Johanson, Donnita White and Active – each made the all-academic team. Donnita White and Active were also named to the “good sport” team.
The road may have been winding, but at the end of it, the Lady Braves were once again crowned Southeast champs. It was fairly similar to how the 2010 tournament went for the Lady Braves. Last year, they lost to Craig, then battled back to win three straight matches Saturday, including two over the Lady Panthers, to capture the title. Two of those three wins were in five games, as they Lady Braves were truly pushed to the brink in 2010. Last year’s squad then made a run to the state championship game, where they fell to Grace Christian.
Now, Calkins is hopeful his girls can put together a three-game winning streak in Wasilla, site of the state tournament, and capture an elusive state title. There’s no margin for error at state, where the format is single elimination.
“We feel that when we play right we’re as good as anybody in the state,” Calkins said. “It’s nice going in knowing that you don’t have to do anything spectacular. We could play our best and still get beat, but if we play our best we’re going to be competitive.”