Another year, another second-place finish at the Class 1A-2A-3A (West) state volleyball tournament for the Hoonah Braves.
The Braves, who won the 1998 state tournament, claimed their fourth second-place finish in six years when the Seldovia-Susan B. English Sea Otters rallied from two games down to beat Hoonah 6-15, 10-15, 15-9, 15-10, 15-7 in the title match Saturday night at Anchorage's Bartlett High School.
It was Hoonah's third straight runner-up finish. Hoonah also finished second in 1997, the first year of the Class 1A-2A-3A West state tournament. The Braves have been in the championship match five times, with their only year not making it being 1999.
With the victory, the Sea Otters closed out a perfect 28-0 season. Hoonah's record wasn't available, but the only time the Braves lost during the regular season was in the championship match of Juneau's All-Comers Tournament when the top Juneau JV team won the title.
In the championship match, Seldovia's inside game proved to be stronger than Hoonah's outside attack.
Seldovia's offense was centered around senior middle hitters Jaime Geagel and Amelia Dillon, who combined for 46 kills (Geagel had 24, Dillon 22) as nearly every Sea Otter attack went through the middle.
Hoonah didn't have the strong middle, so its offense was geared toward outside hitters Cassandra Peters and Amy Wright. Peters, a 5-foot-5 sophomore, and Wright, a 5-3 junior, were just as critical to Hoonah's offense as the 5-11 Geagel and 5-10 Dillon were to Seldovia's, but stats weren't available for the Hoonah players.
"Those were the two that were strong and consistent, so I chose to go with them," Hoonah coach Julie Jackson told the Anchorage Daily News.
Hoonah only had seven players this year, after losing six players to graduation from last year's state runner-up team, so Jackson's options were limited. Even holding practice was difficult, since the Braves didn't have enough players to put a team on each side of the net.
Despite the lack of bodies, Hoonah still managed to knock off 2000 champion Dillingham in Thursday's opening round, then the Braves swept Barrow 15-9, 15-3, 15-7 in Friday's semifinals to reach the championship match.
Seldovia knocked off Klawock in the first round, then needed five games to beat defending champion Koliganek, 17-15, 10-15, 15-9, 5-15, 15-8, in Friday's semifinals.
In Saturday's other matches, Koliganek claimed third place with a 15-5, 15-7, 15-10 sweep of Barrow, while Dillingham swept Nenana 15-10, 15-10, 15-6 to claim fourth place. On Friday, Nenana eliminated Klawock from the tournament but a score was not available.
In the coed mixed-six state tournament also held at Bartlett, the Newhalen Malemutes claimed the title with a 15-10, 15-8, 9-15, 15-5 victory over the defending champion Point Hope-Tikigaq Harpooners. The coed mixed-six volleyball tournament is only for Class 1A and Class 2A schools that can't get enough girls together for a girls team.
The co-op team of Marshall/Russian Mission took third place with a 6-15, 14-16, 15-12, 15-8, 15-13 victory over Kwethluk. Galena claimed fourth place with a 15-4, 14-16, 15-3, 15-8 victory over 1998 and 2000 champion White Mountain.
The only Southeast team in the tournament, Gustavus, was eliminated early. The Foxes lost to Marshall/Russian Mission in Thursday's opening round, then lost to Galena in Friday's consolation round (no score was available).