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VOLLEYBALL

Prep Volleyball: Wasilla earns first 4A state championship in 20 years, sweeps East for 15th straight win

by | Nov 12, 2023 | Cover Story, Prep Spotlight, Volleyball

Wasilla’s Rylee Pitney goes on the attack with East’s Evelyn Whitson on the block. Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

Saturday night’s Class 4A volleyball championship match ended just as it began – with a powerful front-row kill smashed by Wasilla senior middle Rylee Pitney.

Pitney’s spikes marked the first and last points for the Warriors, and many in between, as they swept the East Thunderbirds 25-12, 25-14, 25-21 at the Alaska Airlines Center.

“Best day of my life,” Pitney said. “We worked really hard for this. I’m out of this world.”

Coming off a fourth-place finish in the 2022 state tournament, the Warriors swept every opponent they faced in this year’s tournament – Dimond, South, and East twice over the last three days – to carry their now 45-set, 15-match winning streak into the school’s first state championship since 2001.

Playing for the person next to them kept her team motivated through the tournament, said Wasilla coach Katie Oxspring.

Wasilla’s Marissa Monroe makes the dig. Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

“Every time there was a moment where we kind of felt like someone else was gaining momentum, my coaching is to look someone else on the team in the eye and tell them they’re doing something great,” Oxspring said. “It’s just when you become ‘me’ focused, things go awry really quickly. And so, we just stayed ‘we’ focused throughout the whole tournament.”

After sweeping Cook Inlet Conference rival Dimond in the consolation bracket earlier Saturday, East hoped to bounce back against Wasilla in the championship rematch. But Coach Garrett Danner doesn’t view the loss as a setback, instead focusing on his respect for Wasilla’s program and pride in his players’ journey.

“They just do it the right way – the coach is friendly, the players are friendly,” he said about Wasilla. “My players never gave up. Not a tough night (for our team) at all. I’m super proud of my players.”

The Warriors are dangerous at both front and back rows with the combination of Pitney, middle Layla Hays, and outsides Allison Devine and Ki Schachle.

ASAA/First National Bank Alaska
Class 4A Volleyball State Championships
All-Tournament Team

Nicole Dickinson, Soldotna
Mylee Anderson, Wasilla
Eleasha Sapon, Dimond
Marija Wunnicke, South
Athaliah Faiilagi, East
Allison Devine, Wasilla
Lajirah Boma, East
Patricia Ferran, Service
Mya Oliver, East
Rylee Pitney, Wasilla
Amelia Muhlbauer, Dimond
Layla Hays, Wasilla

In the first set, Wasilla jumped to a 6-2 lead behind three kills from Pitney and a sharp backrow kill from Devine. Devine, who earned Wasilla’s Player of the Match award, contributed three of the next four Wasilla points with spikes from the outside. Hays pitched in with two kills and a block, and setter Mylee Anderson executed a dump over the net.

East’s defense fought back hard, with libero Mya Oliver and outsides Lajirah Boma and Mariaha Afuvai all finding digs in the first set.

Oliver was particularly key on defense all night for the T-birds, contributing three straight digs late in the first set to counter Wasilla’s strikes and keep her team alive. Boma was the heart of East’s offense in the first set, leading her team with three kills. Her standout performance earned her East’s Player of the Match award.

In the second set, Pitney went to work again with a spike and one-handed dump for two of Wasilla’s first three points.

Boma kept the drive going for East, slamming two spikes to help bring the T-birds within 5-4. She contributed two more kills during the second set and pitched in defensively at the net alongside defense from Oliver, middle Evelyn Whitson, and defensive specialist Alyssa Cabesas. Whitson and Afuvai both handed out blocks during the second set as well.

East’s Garrett Danner talks to the T-birds during a timeout. Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

A 9-point run by the Warriors helped clinch the second set, with a dump from Hays, a spike by Schachle, and an ace from libero Kenadee Shelton adding to three kills spiked by Pitney.

The pivotal third set was marked by long rallies and smart defense on both sides.

For the T-birds, Oliver and Cabesas did their part in the back row, and the duo of Hays and opposite Ava Holland made a difference at net for the Warriors.

Boma’s swift spikes again came through for East with 4 kills in the third set, along with an ace. Whitson also broke through the Warriors defense with a kill.

Wasilla’s offense won the day in the third with another team effort from Schachle, Pitney, Hays, Devine and Anderson, boosted by aces served up by outside/defensive specialist Isha Stanford and Holland.

After a 20-year championship drought, Pitney and her team are excited to bring the trophy back to the halls of Wasilla High.

“I think it’s gonna really kind of have an impact,” she said. “Valley volleyball is there. It exists and it’s a force.”

Wasilla’s Allison Devine (left) celebrates with teammates Rylee Pitney (17), Mylee Anderson (14) after a point. Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

Story made possible by:

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

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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