Teams from Skyview, Kenai, SoHi, Nikiski and Seward traveled to Homer last weekend for Homer’s 2013 Jamboree, two days of fast-paced volleyball action.
“The Jamboree is always a fun, first event to kick off the season,” said Mariner Head Coach Beth Trowbridge. “It is considered a practice tournament so there are no awards given and typically we don’t even have a championship match.”
The Jamboree provided Homer the experience of playing in a varsity setting and the opportunity to work on their on-court communication skills and serving consistency.
“I was pleased with Zoia Basargin and Tayla Cabana’s offensive play,” said Trowbridge. “Zoia had the team high of 31 kills for the weekend and Tayla added 30 kills. Zoia also had 11 service aces and four solo blocks.”
Other highlights for the Mariners included McKi Needham’s 10 service aces and Larsen Fellows leading the team in setting assists and serving consistency, serving at 97 percent.
“Kyla Pitzman showed some aggressive net play at times and led the team with eight solo blocks and five block assists, as well as 11 kills,” said Trowbridge. “Maggie Koplin led the team in digs and Jane Rohr added five kills and three block assists to the team stats.”
With six teams competing and a goal of giving players as much court time as possible, “we held round-robin play on Friday and a double elimination tournament on Saturday,” said Trowbridge. Although scoring many close sets, Homer was seeded fifth after Friday’s round-robin play. On Saturday, the Mariners took Seward to three sets, losing the third 12-15. Facing Soldotna, Homer lost in two, with the second set’s final score a close 20-25. Skyview won the jamboree, defeating Soldotna in the championship “if match,” a single, 30-point match.
The aggressive, back-to-back games tested the athletes’ fitness, but it was a challenge for which the Mariners’ were prepared thanks to staying active throughout the summer and involvement in more than one sport.
“Most of these girls are multi-sport athletes who spent their summer playing softball, soccer or going to basketball camps,” said Trowbridge. “A couple of players went to volleyball camps over the summer and we hosted a camp the week before practice, so I think overall they were ready.”
The challenge comes in maintaining mental and physical stamina during a long tournament, but with three more back-to-back tournaments in the season’s schedule the Mariners will have plenty of opportunities to combine the two.
The jamboree offered a glimpse of more experienced teams and players in action and what it takes to be competition-ready. The loss of last year’s seniors resulted in a team that is, for the most part, new to playing at the varsity level. Returning players include senior Basargin, a first team all-region player last year; junior Fellows, who played right front and back-up setter; and senior Maggie Koplin, who played libero last year and will return to that spot this year. In addition, Cabana experienced some varsity action late last season as an outside and middle hitter.
Trowbridge is looking to Basargin and Cabana to lead the team offensively with their powerful attacks and great defensive, all-around play; Larsen Fellows to lead the team setting.
“I haven’t completely set the varsity team yet, but senior Brenna Evarts will help out with defensive play and Hailey Hughes will be looked to for some middle blocker action,” said Trowbridge.
“Pitzman, a junior, will be working hard to refine her hitting and blocking skills. Other players sure to see plenty of varsity time are juniors Jane Rohr in middle and right side, Maggie Larue as a defensive specialist, and sophomores Needham as one of the setters and Lyndsay Brown as a middle/utility player.”
More playing time in the next couple of weeks will allow Trowbridge to sort out the rest of the players. Two hours of practice daily also will help identify players’ strengths and develop skills.
“We are pretty young and will need to gain some experience and confidence,” she said.
This is Trowbridge’s 13th year as coach. Lisa Fellows coaches the junior varsity team and Jessie Erickson, a Homer High graduate, will coach the C team.
The upcoming volleyball schedule includes the next three weekends at tournaments in Cordova, Seward and Houston. Tuesday home matches scattered in between, with the first one against Kenai on Sept. 3. The Peninsula Challenge tournament will be held in Homer Sept. 27-28.
“We have yet to set official goals as a team for the season, but I think everyone is ready to work hard to improve, strengthen our skills and communication and strive to be contenders for a berth at the state tournament this year,” said Trowbridge. “Even though we are young and lack experience right now, I have some stellar athletes who enjoy being part of a team and playing volleyball, so I believe it will come together for them later in the season as they reap the benefits of hard work and lots and lots of playing time.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.