For the first time in 11 years, the Homer Mariners volleyball team is headed to State competition. The team secured its place by taking first at Regions on Saturday.
Before Regions began, the “Golden Spike” competition measured the hardest, fastest spike attack in the region. Mariner Kyla Pitzman had the winning spike, set by McKi Needham, at 51 miles per hour. Mariner Maggie Larue was honored for her sportsmanship as a member of the All Conference Good Sport Team. Needham was selected for the Second All-Conference Team; and Mariners Larsen Fellows and Jane Rohr were selected for the First All-Conference Team.
“The beauty was not so much in these individual accomplishments, but rather in the great synergy and flow that the team created that led to a smooth, relaxed yet powerful play. They reached that perfect, relaxed, focused intensity that we try to get our athletes to attain. And they reached it as a team. It was great fun to watch and made it all come together for them,” said Head Coach Beth Trowbridge.
In its first match last Thursday, Homer beat Seward in three sets: 25-23, 25-21, 25-8. That win earned the Mariners their ticket to the semi-final match against ACS. Pitzman led the team with nine kills against Seward. Larsen Fellows followed with eight and Rohr had five. Larue helped the team string points together with tough serving and led the team with five aces, followed by Larsen and Malina Fellows with three aces apiece.
“Once we had the first two sets behind us the confidence grew and everyone was aggressive at finishing the third set to close the match,” said Trowbridge.
Knowing the state tournament berth was on the line, the Mariners came out against ACS a little tense, struggling to find their rhythm, Trowbridge said. Most of Homer’s kill and serving errors match occurred in the first game. They lost 25-22.
After regrouping and relaxing, the Homer team began playing at its own pace, Trowbridge said. Halfway through the second game, Homer took control. The Mariners won 25-16, and continued their winning streak, taking the next two 25-9 and 25-9. Larsen Fellows had the team high of 16 kills for that match. Rohr had nine kills. Pitzman contributed six kills to the offense.
Serving was tough and most of the servers were able to get an ace or two, according to Trowbridge. Larsen Fellows, Rohr, Larue and Needham each had two aces and Maryhana Bowe, Jenna Dragoo and Malina Fellows each contributed an ace. Malina Fellows rolled her ankle on a spike approach early in the second set and Tisha Lovett and Jenna Dragoo stepped in and helped the team secure the win. Lovett contributed a kill and Dragoo had a service ace to close out the second set.
Saturday night, Homer faced Grace for the championship. The Mariners came out relaxed and focused from the start, Trowbridge said. Mariners won the first set 25–20.
A strong offensive attack by Larsen Fellows, Rohr and Pitzman and great defense by Larue, Needham, Rohr and Larsen Fellows kept many plays alive. After the first set, Grace came out very aggressive and Homer let down a little, resulting in errors, especially in Homer’s attacking, according to Trowbridge.
Most of the Mariners’ attack errors for the match came in the second set, which they lost 25-15.
Homer rallied, aware of the need to keep offensive pressure on Grace and serve tough. The Mariners won the third match 25-19. They took the final set 25-16 with a strong, confident finish, Trowbridge said.
Larsen Fellows led the offense with 14 kills, followed by Pitzman with nine and Rohr with seven. Malina Fellows contributed four kills and Bowe added three kills to the offense. Larsen Fellows also led the team with three aces. Needham followed with two aces and also had two solo blocks. Larue led the defense with 25 digs for the match.
Larsen Fellows finished with weekend with 38 kills and a season high of 27 percent kill efficiency and the team high of eight service aces. Pitzman had 24 kills and 12 percent efficiency. Rohr had 21 kills and 11 percent efficiency with three service aces and 49 digs, second highest for the team.
Larue ended the weekend with seven service aces, the team high of 71 digs and 80 percent serve receive. Needham ran the offense with her setting and tallied up 88 assists for the weekend, six service aces behind a 93 percent serving record and contributed 43 digs. Bowe had 40 perfect serves this weekend adding three service aces. She also contributed nine kills and four blocks.
“But even though there were players with great statistics for the weekend, it was the whole team effort that really made the difference,” Trowbridge said.
The players’ hard work all season got them to where they are, Trowbridge said. The added bonus of Assistant Coach Chris Gorny’s experience also was vital.
“With his experience with coaching at the college and elite club volleyball level, he has been able to help the team develop not only their overall skill set, but also the mental aspect of the game,” Trowbridge said. “We have definitely benefited from his expertise.”
As Region champs, the Mariners are seeded first for their region going into the state championship, held at the new Alaska Airline Arena and the Wells Fargo sports complex in Anchorage beginning today and continuing through Saturday. There are eight teams competing in the double elimination competition.
Homer faces number two seed for the western region, Nome, in their first game at the Wells Fargo Gym at 11:15 a.m. today.