Mariner volleyball team fights to fifth at State

In their first State competition since 2003, the Homer High Mariner volleyball team scored a fifth-place finish and received the academic achievement award for a collective 3.84 grade point average. 

“Many of these players are in upper level courses, such as AP classes. They miss a lot of school and must work really hard to juggle school work, athletics and a social life. It is a great honor to get this award as student athletes,” Head Coach Beth Trowbridge told the Homer News.

In addition to the team’s achievement, several players stood out at state, said Trowbridge. Independent scorekeepers watching the match awarded a player of the game certificate to outstanding players or game-changers. Larsen Fellows was selected as player of the game against Nome. Maggie Larue was player of the game against Monroe and Jane Rohr was player of the game against Nikiski. Rohr and Kyla Pitzman were selected to the State All-Tournament team. Malina Fellows and Tisha Lovett were honored for their great sportsmanship and honored as All State Good Sports. 

Homer came out against Nome in the Mariners’ first game on Thursday morning, and swept the Nanooks in three sets: 25-10, 25-11, 25-12. Homer was strong and confident, according to Trowbridge. Pitzman led the team with eight kills and a 33 percent kill efficiency on the offense, followed by Larsen Fellows with seven kills. Rohr had six and Malina Fellows and Maryhana Bowe each had three. 

Younger Homer players also had a chance to contribute in the match against Nome, according to Trowbridge. Kelly Leibers helped secure the win with a kill while PK Woo set the team up with match point on a service ace. Serving was tough and consistent, said Trowbridge. The Mariners had a 90 percent efficiency with seven errors. Bowe led the team with six aces, followed by Larue with four aces. 

The win kept the Mariners in the winners’ bracket to face Monroe Thursday afternoon. Homer came out a little tentative in this match, according to Trowbridge. Monroe got an early lead in the first set, but Homer fought back to a 22-22 score. Monroe captured the win with a 25-23 finish. Homer fought hard in the next two sets, but the Mariners could not gain enough momentum in either set, said Trowbridge. Homer lost the second set 25-19 and the third set 25-21.

Homer struggled with serving and passing against Monroe, according to Trowbridge. The offense had a difficult time siding-out. Rohr led the offense with seven kills and a 33 percent efficiency, her highest of the season. Larsen Fellows contributed five kills and Pitzman added four. Malina Fellows and Bowe each contributed two kills.

The players weren’t able to serve as tough, according to Trowbridge. Collectively, they had six aces compared to 17 against Nome. Serving was at 84 percent. Larsen Fellows led the team with 100 percent serving, followed by Larue with 90 percent. Larue also led the defense with 13 digs, followed by Rohr with 10 digs and Larsen Fellows with one. Strong defense helped keep the Mariners alive against the aggressive Monroe team, said Trowbridge. Rohr led the team with two solo blocks and one block assist. Pitzman followed closely behind with one solo and two assists. The loss knocked the Mariners into the losers’ bracket and they faced Nikiski on Friday.

In a match that would be the first to go five sets in State competition, Homer faced Nikiski, a team they had split with during the regular season. Nikiski took the first two sets 25-14, 25-18. The players were challenged to dig deep by Trowbridge during the break between the second and the third game. The Mariners regrouped and came out fighting, Trowbridge said. The Mariners took that set 27-25 to stay alive. Set four went to Homer with a 25-17 win and it looked like the momentum had shifted Homer’s way, according to Trowbridge. However, the Bulldogs were aggressive and came out with a strong serve that the Mariners struggled with and Nikiski took the fifth set 15-6, Trowbridge said. 

Larsen Fellows led the offense with 16 kills, followed by Rohr with 15. Pitzman and Bowe each had eight. Bowe had a season high 35 percent kill efficiency for the match, as well as the team high of three service aces. McKi Needham led the offense with 24 assists and had the team high of five blocks. The loss knocked the Mariners out of the tournament giving them a fifth place finish. They tied with Valdez. 

“It was a hard loss, but the team fought hard to come back from a two game deficit to push the match to five sets and I was proud of their determination and tough play,” Trowbridge said.

Even with a police escort out of town as the Mariners headed for the State tournament on Wednesday, Trowbridge said the team handled the pressure well. 

“They were more relaxed in the Wells Fargo complex during their first match and maybe a little awe-struck playing in the new Alaska Airlines Complex, but they got over that after their match against Monroe,” Trowbridge said.

“They are a focused group of players. They prepared for the match without getting nervous.”

That brings the volleyball season to an end, but many of the players are multi-sport athletes. Most play softball and are already planning to attend clinics to prepare for the upcoming season. Those who play basketball begin practice when the season begins in a couple of weeks. Some of the players who don’t play winter sports will continue to play volleyball at the community level. Hockey practice has already begun for Larue.

Trowbridge said she is proud of the work the team did. 

“We are very proud of our accomplishments this season in both personal and team growth. I hope this success carries on with the girls in their other sports this year and into next volleyball season,” said Trowbridge. “It is great that half of the team was sophomores and juniors who worked hard to earn the region championship and got experience at the state tournament level. This will help the team plan for success from the beginning of next season.”