Chugiak volleyball finishes fourth at state tournament

Mustangs rally after opening round loss


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Chugiak’s Karlee Kavanaugh prepares to serve during the Mustangs’ 3-0 loss to Palmer in the opening round of the Class 4A state volleyball tournament. The Mustangs finished fourth with back-to-back wins.

STAR PHOTO BY MIKE NESPER

After losing 3-1 (24-26, 25-14, 25-23, 25-15) to Palmer, Chugiak dropped just one set in its final two matches to take fourth place at the ASAA Alaska Class 4A State Volleyball Tournament at the Menard Sports Center in Wasilla.

The win marks the second consecutive year Chugiak has ended the state tournament with a victory.

The Mustangs, who have made four straight state appearances, finished third last year, fifth in 2009 and second in 2008.

Chugiak downed Juneau-Douglas 3-1 (25-20, 25-17, 24-26, 25-20) in the fourth-place match Saturday, Nov. 12.

Senior Mollie Matthis, who finished with 24 assists, 18 digs and two aces, was named player of the match. Seniors Karlee Kavanaugh and Anna Matthews each had 13 kills. Matthews added eight digs and one block while Kavanaugh, who was named to the all-tournament team, added 36 digs and two aces.

Senior Kristy Howard recorded nine kills, five digs and three blocks.

After trailing 9-12 in the first game, Chugiak scored 13 straight points to take control of the game. The Mustangs built an eight-point lead in the second game and never looked back.

Chugiak looked poised to notch its second consecutive shutout — the Mustangs blanked Wasilla (25-19, 25-16, 25-16) on Friday, Nov. 11 — but Juneau-Douglas kept fighting. Faced with four Chugiak match points, the Crimson Bears rallied to score six in a row and force a fourth game.

“Juneau didn’t give up,” Matthews said. “They played every point.”

But the Mustangs weren’t letting the match extend to a fifth game.

“The fourth game we decided let’s calm down, play our game,” Karlee Kavanaugh said. “Let’s do it.”

The game remained close until Chugiak called timeout holding a 15-13 lead. Head coach Kelly Kavanaugh said he told his team to find its powerful, fast offensive from the first two games.

“And they did,” coach Kavanaugh said. “Anna just went right out there and took care of it in the middle.”

Matthews ripped off three spikes and accounted for three of Chugiak’s final four points, including match point. After the timeout, Chugiak strung together four points to gain a 19-13 advantage.

Coach Kavanaugh said the Mustangs were a different team than the group who showed up for the Palmer match.

“Even when things weren’t going well today, we didn’t have that look of, ‘Oh my goodness. What do we do now?’” he said.

“I’m totally proud of them,” coach Kavanaugh said. “They’ve worked hard all season.”

That hard work was the focal point of a team discussion following the loss to Palmer, Karlee Kavanaugh said.

“We didn’t want to give up,” she said. “We decided we had to bounce back.”

“I think we realized how much we wanted it,” Matthews said.

Karlee Kavanaugh said leaving behind the tight-knit volleyball squad will be difficult.

“We are like a family,” she said. “We all get along so well. That’s the part I’m going to miss the most.”

Matthews echoed her words.

“I have a lot of good memories,” she said. “Volleyball has been a big part of my life.”

If the Mustangs are going to make a run at five straight state appearances, they’ll have to do it without Karlee Kavanaugh, Mattews, Howard and Matthis, who are all seniors. But Chugiak will have five juniors returning — McKenzie Kish, Allison Baumgartner, Kara Haeussler, Hannah Shuman and Kathleen Gill. Add in the return of sophomore Kirsten Veech and freshman Rachel Gregg, and Chugiak will have a solid team next season, coach Kavanaugh said.

“We’ve got a strong group coming back,” he said.

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