ANCHORAGE -- The Craig Panthers took fifth place in the Class 3A state tournament after dropping a 15-10, 15-13, 15-5 decision to the Seward Seahawks Saturday at West Anchorage High School.
The loss, combined with a 15-10, 15-8, 15-3 loss to the Nikiski Bulldogs on Friday, were the only two losses of the season for the Panthers, who posted an 18-2 record. Nikiski played the Valdez Buccaneers Saturday night for the Class 3A state championship.
"We could have done way better," said Meggie Haydu, the only senior on Craig's roster. "We didn't work as a team."
Even though Haydu was disappointed by the way her high school volleyball career ended, she felt the state tournament experience helped her younger teammates. She thought last year's first trip to state in school history helped the team this year -- even though six seniors graduated from that team -- and that helped the Panthers upset 1999 state champion Grace Christian School in the first round Thursday.
"I think we did good," Craig sophomore Carly May said. "We were 18-2 and these were our first losses yesterday and today. We have a young team and this will help us. We didn't have a good attitude yesterday and we could have beaten them."
"I think it's helped," sophomore Anjuli Haydu said. "We did OK, but we could have done better."
Stats weren't available from either team, but senior outside hitter Erin Carr led Seward's attack and dominated the right side.
"Their hitters outside were tough," Anjuli Haydu said.
"I think it was their size. They were way tall," May added.
The other Southeast team in the Class 3A tournament, Mount Edgecumbe, was eliminated on Friday morning by the Cordova Wolverines, 17-15, 15-6, 13-15, 6-15, 15-0.
In that match, Mount Edgecumbe nearly stole the first game after Cordova jumped out to an early lead. After losing the second game, the Braves jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the third game. Mount Edgecumbe still led 13-3, only to watch the Wolverines put together a couple of runs to tie the score at 13-13. Mount Edgecumbe finally got a sideout to end the run, then Cordova made a passing error and Adrienne Taalak followed that up with a kill to give the game to the Braves.
Mount Edgecumbe was able to use the momentum in the fourth game, as the Braves jumped out to a 13-2 lead before closing out the game. But the momentum deserted the Braves in the fifth and deciding game, and Cordova shut them out.
"We kind of psyched ourselves out," Mount Edgecumbe senior Sara Squartsoff said. "But we played more to our potential today (than the Braves did in their 15-4, 15-8, 15-1 loss to Valdez in Thursday's opening round). That was intimidating for us. We should have a stronger team next year. We were hoping (to win), but it just didn't go our way."
"That makes a coach grow old quickly," said Mount Edgecumbe coach Michael Mahoney, who is only seven years removed from Kodiak High School himself. "Volleyball is such a momentum-based game. I was just glad we could close out that third game without giving it away. The fifth game didn't go like anyone suspected. We're going to work on our mental preparation for next year."
Kaila Hawley led Cordova with 16 kills and 17 digs, while Amy Jo Bowen added 13 kills, Amanda Lepschat was a perfect 26-for-26 serving with seven aces and 17 digs, and Katrina Van Dyck was 25-for-25 serving with four aces and 41 assists. No stats were available for Mount Edgecumbe.
Mount Edgecumbe almost didn't come to the state tournament after finishing second in the Region V-Class 3A tournament, but at the last minute came up with enough money to send eight players and Mahoney to Anchorage. Even though there were five seniors and three sophomores in the group that came, Mahoney said he thinks the experience will help next year's team.
"We'll definitely be back next year," said Mount Edgecumbe sophomore Andrea Aiken, who played middle hitter for the Braves. "We're a young team. I didn't think they would be this fast."