By CRAIG GIAMMONA
Courtesy Daily Sitka Sentinel
The Mt. Edgecumbe Lady Braves closed out another strong regular season in the 3A Southeast Conference Oct. 25, beating Sitka High in straight sets at B.J. McGillis Gymnasium to finish 11-1 and lock up the top seed at next week’s Region V Tournament.
On senior night at MEHS, with coach Rich Calkins home sick, the Lady Braves held off a feisty Lady Wolves squad and won 3-0 to earn a first-round bye at Region V, which opens Nov. 3 in Juneau.
It was the 11th straight conference win for the Lady Braves, who lost their opening match of the season in five games to Petersburg but have been perfect since against 3A Southeast opponents. The Lady Braves beat Sitka at SHS Oct. 19 in straight sets, then swept a pair of road matches in Wrangell to move their record to 10-1 heading into the final regular season match of the season. Both wins in Wrangell came on Oct. 22. The Lady Braves were delayed leaving Sitka because of fog in Juneau and did arrive in Wrangell until 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 22. They beat the Wolves at a match that began around 1 p.m., then again in a 7 p.m. match. The Lady Braves then returned to Japonski Island and beat Sitka High to close out the 2011 regular season.
It was the Lady Wolves who ended the Lady Braves 58-match conference winning streak last year, but MEHS regrouped and rallied to win the Region V title.
Now the Lady Braves are working on another streak, one they hope will continue right through the 2011 Region V Tournament. The Braves have won the last four Region V titles, and will enter next week’s tournament as the favorites to make it five in a row.
The match Oct. 25 began with a ceremony honoring Brenna Johnanson (Hoonah), Donnita White (Hoonah) and Acquilina Active (Nanwalek), the three varsity seniors for MEHS. Assistant coach Archie Young stepped in for Calkins as the master of ceremonies.
Sitka led the first game 3-2, but the Lady Braves surged to an 8-3 lead and the advantage was persistent as MEHS went up 1-0 in the match. Leading 19-13, the Lady Braves got a pair of hard spikes from freshman Taryn White and closed out a 25-15 win.
The Lady Braves led wire-to-wire in the second game, which was close in the early going. A spike by White put MEHS up 10-7, but Sitka scored the next to points, leaving the score at 10-9. Leading 17-14, the Lady Braves made their final push, running off five straight points to go up 22-14. The final was 25-18 and MEHS had a 2-0 match lead. Sitka had a 1-0 lead in the third game, but Edgecumbe closed out the sweep with a 25-12 win. Coach Young said he was glad the MEHS seniors got a win in their final match at B.J. McGillis Gymnasium.
“For your seniors, you always want to finish on a winning note,” coach Young said. “It’s always good for them, as far as their last match, to end on a high.”
The Lady Braves and Lady Wolves have just a few more practices remaining before the Region V Tournament opens in Juneau. Young, reiterating a sentiment that Calkins has made the team’s mantra this year, said the Lady Braves would spend the next few days “working on consistency and playing to our ability.”
“You always hope your kids will step up when it matters most,” Young said, adding that, in the past, the Edgecumbe volleyball team has usually performed its best when the money is on the line.