By TOM HESSE
Sentinel Staff Writer
After a Thursday night loss to Grace Christian, the Mt. Edgecumbe High Lady Braves won their last four matches of the weekend dropping only a single set the entire weekend.
The Lady Braves, along with Sitka High, hosted Eielson High School of Fairbanks and Grace Christian of Anchorage. Both teams played three matches at Sitka and three at Mt. Edgecumbe between Thursday and Saturday.
“This was great for our season,” head coach Rich Calkins said about the opportunity to play the northern schools.
Mt. Edgecumbe swept Eielson in all of their three matches. Thursday they won a three-set match 25-18, 25-15. Friday they won 25-20, 25-8, 25-10 and Saturday 25-13, 25-10, 25-22.
Grace Christian, who the Lady Braves defeated in last year’s state championship, proved to be a more difficult challenge.
Mt. Edgecumbe lost the first set to Grace Christian on Thursday 25-23. The Braves were down 21-14 in the second set when Calkins took a time out. Following the time out, the Lady Braves went on a 5-0 run and eventually took the second set 25-23 and the third set 26-24.
Grace Christian rallied to take the fourth set 26-16 and won the tie-breaking fifth set 15-11.
“Thursday we came out and got tipped to death,” Calkins said. “We improved a lot as a team since then.”
Mt. Edgecumbe swept the Grace Christian Lady Grizzlies 25-21, 25-15 on Friday and won in four sets on Saturday, 25-18, 15-25, 25-22, 25-15. Calkins said the biggest change through the three days was his team’s ability to adjust.
“We made adjustments and that’s so big in volleyball. You have to be able to make adjustments,” Calkins said.
Deenaalee Chase-Hodgdon finished with 104 kills over the six games to go with 22 digs and 13 aces. Since Mt. Edgecumbe’s first two games against Sitka High, Chase-Hodgdon has developed a finesse game for finding the holes on the floor, Calkins said.
Taryn White, Mt. Edgecumbe’s other outside hitter, had 82 kills in three days of work. White added 16 digs and 7 aces to her stat line.
Eden Cronk had four kills, nine digs and two aces. Mariah Martin had six kills, eight digs and eight aces. Maggie Okakok had 13 digs and nine aces. Danielle Fields had six kills. Renatta Olson had 5 digs and three aces. Leilani Saena had 10 aces and one dig and Payton Weisz and Brenda Norbert had a kill each.
Mt. Edgecumbe will be on the road next weekend and Calkins said his team has a lot to cover but he is still happy with the progress they have made.
“They’re starting to play really well together,” Calkins said. “I see all the kids out there picking each other up. I see Payton Weisz, our little freshman, out there making some huge plays for us and stepping up when we need someone to. She’ll make a mistake and someone will go pick her up and then I see her do the same thing with them.”
Calkins’ focus for the rest of the season is to make sure his team’s fundamentals are sound and that they execute their offense as well as possible.
“Volleyball is pretty basic and anyone who watches us and knows anything about volleyball knows that 98 percent of the balls are going outside to Taryn and Deenaalee,” Calkins said. “If we’re able to execute, then it doesn’t matter if they know it’s coming.”
Assistant coach Archie Young said one of the team’s best qualities so far is its willingness to play hard in tough spots.
“There were a couple of times they were down big and staye d with it,” Young said.
On Friday, Grace Christian opened a set up with a 9-1 lead and Mt. Edgecumbe fought back to win the set and the match.
“So far in the season they haven’t showed a single bit of quit out there,” Calkins said.