Nanooks rallies after overtime loss to Barrow
With the conclusion of Nome’s fourth annual Arctic Pinkies Volleyball Tournament last weekend, the Nanooks’ 2016 Western Conference volleyball introductions are complete. After a 3-0 loss to the Barrow Whalers on Friday night, and a 3-1 victory over the Bethel Warriors on Saturday, the Lady Nanooks have now played all their conference rivals during the regular season.
The Service Cougars of Anchorage were added to the mix for the 2016 Pinkies tourney, an event that not only brings great volleyball to the Nome-Beltz gym, but is also a vehicle for promoting cancer awareness and support. The tournament standings found the Whalers claiming the top spot, with the Nanooks taking second place. The Warriors and Cougars took third and fourth respectively.
The marquee match-up of the weekend occurred on Friday evening with a Senior Night contest between the Nanooks and Whalers. Set one was a see-saw battle featuring seven lead changes and eleven tied scores. Nome came up short on a long rally that gave Barrow a 25-24 lead. A late missed serve by the Nanooks led to a 28-26, extended play loss. Nome’s sophomore sensation Kastyn Lie kept her squad in the game with six kills.
The Nanooks tried to regroup after a 25-18 second set loss. For most of set three, Nome was unable to slow down tournament MVP Crystalynn Tulai, who finished with five kills. The Nanooks looked to be concluding the match with a whimper as they fell behind 21-14, but found late set success against Tulai, as juniors Kerry Ahmasuk and Katherine Scott were each able to block Barrow’s top attacker. Although Nome would tie the score at 24-24, they could not close out, and lost 26-24.
“Our potential is high, and I’m proud of my team,” said Tulai whose squad now has at least one victory over each Western Conference opponent this season. “It will take communication and our mind sets have to be really sharp,” she said in reference to what is necessary for her team to place first or second at the conference tournament on their home court in two weeks.
Service, a much larger 4A school, didn’t put up much of a fight at the beginning of their Saturday afternoon match with Nome, dropping the first two sets 25-18, 25-19. They extended the match, however, with a 25-20 third set triumph.
Strong fourth set serving by the Cougars’ Grace Smith, which included a pair of aces, helped her team go on a 9-0 run and turn a 7-11 deficit into a 16-11 lead. At that point, Nanooks senior middle hitter Megan Contreras took over and dominated the play. The Nanooks’ co-captain had two blocks and two kills in leading her team on an 11-0 run of their own, as they reached match point. Contreras put the game away for good with her third kill of the set, thus preserving a 25-20 win.
When asked about her late game heroics, Contreras referred instead to her team’s play. “I try to focus on my team, and how much we accomplish together,” she said. Contreras pointed out her crew’s banner on the south end of the Nome-Beltz gym that reads ‘Together We Make Dreams Come True.’ “That’s such a great motto for us this year, because together we are such a great team,” she said.
Nome’s 3-1 victory over Bethel in the featured Saturday evening match extended their winning streak to two and raised their conference record to 2-4. The Nanooks dropped the first set to the Warriors 20-25, but won convincingly in sets two and three, 25-14, 25-12.
It appeared the Warriors might extend the match as they jumped out to a 20-16 fourth set lead. The Nanooks offense sprang to life in the latter stages of the game as they got key kills from senior co-captain Kim Clark and Scott. Two service aces by sophomore Teri Ruud gave the Nanooks a 22-21 lead, their first in the set since being up 1-0. The volleyball maturation of Contreras, who is in her first year as a starter, seemed complete when she went up for a spike and, while in mid-air, saw that the middle of the Warriors court was open and changed her attack to a perfectly placed, point-scoring tip. That brought the score to 23-21. The Nanooks were able to keep Brenna Rice, the Warrior’s outstanding senior middle hitter, from doing too much late game damage as they closed out the match with a 25-23 fourth set win.
Throughout the tournament, the Nanooks got important contributions from many of their young role players, including Ruud and sophomore Amber Gray. After the Bethel match, both said they are settling in as a back row players and getting more comfortable receiving serves and covering tips. The team also got important coverage in the middle from Scott, who is one of the squad’s leaders in blocks. The first year starter is using intuition and anticipation to stop her opponents at the net. “I follow the ball, and I see where the setter puts the ball, and I just go to it,” she said.
For the first time this year, the Lady Nanooks finished a weekend with an overall winning record in match play. Their two Arctic Pinkies victories leave them with a 6-5 mark as they head south to Bethel next weekend for their last regular season contests. According to the website ASAA 365, Nome is currently ranked third in the Western Conference behind Kotzebue, (5-2 in conference), and Barrow (3-1). Bethel (0-3) is in fourth place.
Seniors Kim Clark, Megan Contreras and Becca Horton, as well as their families, were honored during Friday’s Senior Night celebration.
Crystalynn Tulai of Barrow was named tournament MVP. She was joined on the All-Tournament squad by Brenna Rice of Bethel, Julia Fetko of Service, Kerry Ahmasuk of Nome, Megan Contreras of Nome, Felia Tuai of Barrow and Kastyn Lie of Nome.
The Pinkies tournament gets its name from the Arctic Pinkies organization, which was founded in 2007. Its mission is to raise cancer awareness. Donations are used to support regional cancer patients and continue cancer research efforts.
“It is great to have a purpose with the tournament,” said Nanooks head coach Lucas Frost, who is pleased with the team’s efforts on, and off, the court. The Lady Nanooks volleyball team helped raise over $2,500 this year, and over $10,000 the past four seasons.
Other match play results included:
Match 1 Bethel def. Service
23-25, 20-25, 25-23, 25-14, 15-8
Match 2 Barrow def. Nome
28-26, 25-18, 26-24
Match 3 Nome def. Service
25-18, 25-19, 20-25, 25-20
Match 4 Barrow def. Bethel
25-19, 25-18, 26-24
Match 5 Barrow def. Service
25-19, 25-22, 25-19, 25-16, 15-10
Match 6 Nome def. Bethel
20-25, 25-14, 25-12, 25-23
Match 1 Bethel JV def Nome
JV 25-16, 25-22, 25-18
Match 2 Nome JV ties Bethel
JV 19-25, 25-11, 17-25, 25-8