State volleyball tourney starts today at Chugiak

Mustangs enter as Cook Inlet Conference third seed


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Anna Ingraham, left, and Natalie Stark go up for a block against East on Friday, Nov. 8.

MIKE NESPER

At the start of the season, Chugiak volleyball set a goal of making it to state.

After going 2-1 through the first four days of the Cook Inlet Conference tournament, the Mustangs needed one more win to achieve that objective.

No problem.

Fourth-seeded Chugiak downed third-seeded West in straight sets 25-19, 25-16, 25-23 on Saturday, Nov. 9 at Service High.

The Mustangs and Eagles have a similar style of play, Chugiak head coach Bobbi Mason said. The difference was Chugiak’s mental toughness, she said.

“They took it point by point, ball by ball,” Mason said.

Senior Natalie Stark agreed.

“We didn’t doubt ourselves,” she said. “That was the biggest key.”

Middle hitter Rachel Gregg, who was named to the all-conference first team, recorded her third straight double-double (18 digs, 14 kills) for Chugiak. Kirsten Veech added 10 digs and four kills, and setter Anna Ingraham dished out 29 assists and two aces.

Chugiak setter Rachel Topf was an all-conference second team selection.

Making state was the only thing on Chugiak’s mind prior to its game with West, Stark said.

“We just wanted to do work and get it done,” she said.

Chugiak opened the tournament with a sweep over No. 5 Service before falling into the loser’s bracket after top-seeded Dimond handed the Mustangs a 3-1 (26-24, 25-14, 20-25, 25-19) loss Wednesday, Nov. 6. Gregg furnished 13 kills and 10 blocks, and Sara Rutz recorded 22 digs. Elle Gray had 13 digs and Veech added 10 on top of her five kills.

The Lynx swept South 25-17, 25-19, 25-12 to win the conference title Saturday. Prior to the championship, the Wolverines swept Chugiak 25-17, 25-15, 25-15 in the semifinals.

Chugiak came from behind to defeat sixth-seeded East 3-1 (21-25, 25-18, 25-20, 25-10) on Friday, Nov. 8. Gregg led the Mustangs with 22 kills and 10 blocks. Ingraham racked up 40 assists, and Stark added 13 kills and three blocks.

Eighth-seeded Eagle River was swept by Dimond in the first round and eliminated from the tourney when Service swept the Wolves 25-10, 25-13, 25-8 on Wednesday.

Tournament-host Chugiak opens state today (Thursday, Nov. 14) against Kodiak, the Northern Lights Conference’s top seed, at 3:15 p.m.

Communication is essential for the Mustangs to have success, Stark said. Staying positive when trailing in matches is also key, she said.

Mason said her team has improved throughout the season.

“They’re learning to compete,” she said. “We’ve come a long way.”

Chugiak needs to take care of itself, Mason said.

“Our toughest opponent is still us,” she said.

The Mustangs have shown glimpses of their potential, Mason said, but need to put together complete matches at state.

“We’ve seen our best volleyball,” she said. “It’s not consistent yet.”

Putting the team ahead of individuals is crucial if Chugiak wants to make a run at a Class 4A title, Mason said. Selflessness and confidence will equal success, she said.

“We’ve got to be strong as a team,” Mason said.

 

2013 All-Cook Inlet Conference volleyball

First team — Setter: Jenna Mixson, Dim; Kayla Simms, Sou; Outside hitter: Leah Swiss, Dim; Chrisalyn Johnson, Dim; Middle hitter: Rachel Gregg, Chu; Rita Dexter, West; Libero: Monique Mojica, Ser; Right hitter: Holly Morehouse, Sou.

Second team — Setter: Mafi Makihele, East; Rachel Topf, Chu; Outside hitter: Tayleigh Talmadge, Ser; Ashley Tua, West; Middle hitter: Morgan Christy, Ser; Taria Page, East; Libero: Heidi Andrus, Dim; Right hitter: Maria Ipatova, Ser.

Coach of the Year: Bryan Stenehjem, Ser.

GPA award: South, 3.78.

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