Pitzman takes North-South ‘all tournament’ honors

The Homer Mariners volleyball team served up a fourth-place finish at the North-South Tournament in Houston last week, playing against teams from Anchorage Christian School, Bethel, Delta, Houston, Hutchison, Monroe, Seward, Sitka and Valdez.
Homer’s Kyla Pitzman led the team with 40 kills for the tournament, averaging six per game.
“Her hard hitting and aggressive play earned her ‘All Tournament’ team honors,” said Head Coach Beth Trowbridge.
This was a varsity level tournament, but Trowbridge took some of the JV team to get experience playing as well as an opportunity to see other teams in action. The tournament’s format had each team playing each of the other teams one game to 25 points on Friday. Teams were then divided into two divisions: the top five in the Red division and the bottom five in the Black division. On Saturday, teams played against others in their division in a double elimination tournament for a chance to win the division championship. The Saturday plays were matches of best two out of three sets.
Results from Friday’s games put Homer, with a five-win-four-loss record plus a 202-point total, in fifth place for the Red Division. Their wins were against Monroe, 25-23; Delta, 25-18; Seward, 25-23; Houston, 25-13; and Valdez, 25-21.
“Saturday we faced Valdez in the first round of the double elimination tournament. We beat them 25-23, 25-13 to advance in the winners bracket and face the No. 1 seed, Monroe,” said Trowbridge.
Although the Mariners had dominated Monroe on Friday, Monroe took the upper hand in the Saturday games with scores of 25-11 and 25-6.
“This dropped us into the losers bracket where we faced Hutchison, who had been upset by Sitka in their opening match,” said Trowbridge.
Losing 25-15 and 25-19, Homer was knocked to fourth place and Hutchison went on to beat Monroe for the championship match in three sets.
“The (Homer) team showed some stellar play throughout the tournament and played aggressively and cohesively for many of the games on Friday and during the Saturday match against Valdez,” said Trowbridge. “It was good for them to feel the success of working hard together, having good communication and playing aggressively. On the flip side, they also learned valuable lessons from less than stellar play when they allowed themselves to dwell on mistakes and not make decisions on the court to help the team. These were the games that they lost.”
Tournaments such as the one in Houston offer the Mariners lots of time to play as a team, identify strengths as well as weaknesses and make adjustments.
“A main lesson we learned from the experience was that we need to work harder on defense and develop more of a team ‘dig or die’ mentality,” said Trowbridge. “Maggie Larue had some great digs from the back row, McKi Needham kept balls from landing in the middle of the court and our front row blockers Maryhana Bowe, Larsen Fellows and Isabel Beach and McKi Needham had some great blocks.”
Where the Mariners fell short was with their defensive hustle.
“That will be a main focus of our practices this week as we prepare for three conference matches next week,” said Trowbridge.
In addition to Pitzman, Jane Rohr contributed a solid offensive attack with a tournament total 25 kills and a per-game average of six. Fellows had 21 kills, Needham 15 and Bowe 7.
Sharpening their serving skills, Needham had 13 aces with only five errors, Larue and Bowe had nine each, Malina Fellows had four and Izabelle Hagge had two.
Defensively, Larue passed a lot of balls and was the team’s main digger in the back row with 38 digs. Larsen contributed 23 digs, Needham 19 and Pitzman 11. Bowe led the team with five block assists.
Today the Mariners C, junior varsity and varsity teams play Grace Christian in Anchorage. They play Houston on Friday and return to Anchorage on Saturday to play ACS.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

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