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VOLLEYBALL

Prep Volleyball: Soaring East T-birds stay undefeated in CIC with four-set win at South

by | Sep 16, 2023 | Cover Story, Volleyball

The T-birds are 7-0 in the CIC under coach Garrett Danner (left). Photo by Thomas Crane

The East Anchorage volleyball team continued its remarkable turnaround season with a 23-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-19 victory over the Wolverines Thursday night at South High.

The T-birds, now 16-4 overall and 7-0 in Cook Inlet Conference, could have found themselves in a two-set hole after falling behind in the second set.

But instead, they rallied to even things up at a set apiece and went on to win two straight tense, back-and-forth sets to close things out in front of a lively crowd at the Wolverines Den.

It was the kind of gritty, never-give-up performance that has become the trademark of a T-birds squad which in one year has climbed from the depths of the conference standings to the top.

“These girls are resilient,” East coach Garrett Danner said.

South (5-8, 4-3) was in attack mode all night. Boasting a strong serving game and a formidable front line, the Wolverines kept East diving and digging to stay alive.

South senior outside hitter Allison Ward  and sophomore middle hitter Ellie Birch peppered East with would-be kills all night.

But the defensive-minded East squad played like they were connected by a string. When one player laid out to dig out a spike another was quick to fill the empty space and keep the volley.

“East’s defensive play was excellent,” said South head coach Amy Mestas. “They have clearly been working hard on D and being great teammates.”

As she has done all season, senior setter Athaliah Faiilagi was at the center of the action, controlling tempo and providing hitters with opportunities.

Jirah Boma, who racked up 12 kills, was the primary beneficiary of those opportunities. The junior outside hitter punished the Wolverines with a combination of scorching kills and perfectly placed feathery taps.

The Wolverines were led by Ward’s 17 kills and received excellent playmaking from sophomore setter Ellie Kleven, who tallied 32 assists.

Boma, who put long hours into developing her game during the offseason, is flashing star talent this season.

Junior hitter Jirah Boma rises for a kill. Photo by Thomas Crane

But it’s been team-play, not star-play behind the T-birds remarkable one-season turnaround.

Credit Danner for fostering a culture at East during his two years there that relies on trust, sacrifice and hard work.

“The strength of this team is by far the family environment the team has created with one another,” said Danner, “Each and every one of the team members has an important role in our success.”

Last year, the players, families and administration got to know Danner and his style. This year he said the focus has been all about volleyball and improving.

“They have bought in,” he said. “They believe in their abilities and together we have become a winning program this year.”

The T-birds had not beaten South High since 2017. Topping a program that has won seven state championships in the past 18 years, in their own gym, is a nice measuring stick for a team on the rise.

“The win over South lets everyone know that East is a formidable team and will not be beat without a fight,” said Danner. “It felt exhilarating. I have an extreme sense of pride for the players and their families.”

 

CIC Volleyball Standings

TEAM CONF OVERALL
East 7-0 16-4
Dimond 7-1 19-3
Service 5-2 13-8
South 4-3 5-8
Chugiak 2-4 13-7
Bartlett 1-5 5-19
Eagle River 1-6 4-12
West 0-6 0-6

Story made possible by:

Family of Sponsors

Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Alaska Airlines | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Joe Alston | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Aspen Endodontics | Glen Bailey | Kathie Bethard | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Continental Auto Group | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris | The Conway Family | Donley Family | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Foley & Pearson | JL Properties | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Amy and Jason Miller | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | Rick Mystrom | Kathleen Navarre | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Dave and DeAnne Rand | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Replacement Glass | Residential Mortgage | RSA Engineering- Sarah & A.J. Schirack | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Peter Pounds | Dan Rufner | Harlow Robinson | Pete Robinson | Moria Smith | Taylored Restoration | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Team Heat | Todd Whited | UAA Seawolves | Don Winchester

Family of Sponsors

Alaska Airlines | Nicole Johnston | Richard Mize | Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Aktive Soles | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Aspen Endodontics | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Coho Financial Group | Continental Auto Group | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Glen Bailey | Invisalign-Ben Ward | JL Properties | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris| Kathleen Navarre | Midas Alaska | Moose's Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth Brewing | Perkins Coie - Sarah & A.J. Schirack | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Residential Mortgage | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Taylored Restoration | Korndrop Family Foundation | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Replacement Glass | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Foley & Pearson | UAA Seawolves | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Amy and Jason Miller | Burgerfi | Charles Fedullo | Dan Rufner | Darren Lieb | Don Winchester | Donley Family | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Firetap | Harlow Robinson | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Joe Alston | Kathie Bethard | Krispy Kreme | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Mark Silverman | On the Border | Pete Robinson | Rick Mystrom | Team Heat | Team Moriarty | The Conway Family | Todd Whited | Moria Smith | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Peter Pounds | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | RSA Engineering

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