The gym was rocking at Nikolaevsk Saturday as the second day of action in the 2012 Southwest Conference Mixed 6 Volleyball Tournament narrowed down to a championship battle between defending champs Glacier View Wolverines and the Nikolaevsk Warriors.
With five games to determine the title, the Wolverines, coached by Bea Klaich, took the first game, 25-21. Glacier View, coached by Claudia Berkley and Lou Boyer reversed the score in the second game, winning 25-21. The Warriors came back with a 25-19 win in the third game, with Glacier View pushing to a 25-22 win in the fourth game. In the fifth and final game for the title, Glacier View sealed their trip to the state tournament in Anchorage this weekend by beating the Warriors 15-9.
"We gave Glacier View a run for their money," said Klaich. "I thought we'd take them, but it didn't work out for us."
That didn't end the pressure on the Warriors, however. After a brief break to catch their breath, the coed team was back on the court, battling against the Kodiak ESSS Ravens -- a co-op of students from Akhiok, Karluk and Ouzinkie coached by Russel Scotter, Nicole Voorhees, Sally Crocetti and Brian Olivera -- for second place in the Southwest Conference.
"The hardest thing we had to do was lose that match, go down to the room, regroup and turn around to come back," said Klaich. "That was hard for me as a coach and for my kids. They were devastated to almost get to state and then to have to come back and play for second place."
The Warriors were true to their names, however, charging onto the floor energized and taking second place in three games by beating the Ravens 25-8, 25-21 and 25-22.
"I'm proud of them," said Klaich. "I told them to keep their chins up, they left their hearts on the court, let's learn from this experience and play hard. It was difficult, but they did it."
This is the first time Nikolaevsk has been chosen to hold the conference.
"We're a Region 2 school, but Region 2 didn't have a berth to the state because no other Region 2 schools played Mixed 6," said Klaich of coed volleyball where each team may include no more than three boys, but may include more than three girls.
Because Region 2 had no other Mixed 6 teams, Nikolaevsk was allowed to play in another region.
"The first year we flew to Kakhonak (on the shores of Iliamna Lake) and had to raise almost $10,000 to get there," said Klaich. "A lot of businesses supported us and we worked really hard to get the team there."
Two years ago, the Nikolaevsk team traveled to Ouzinki, near Kodiak, and last year they had to travel to Newhalen, on Iliamna Lake.
Every year, Klaich has put in a bid for Nikolaevsk to be the center of the conference action, hoping to minimize the travel and expense. Finally this year she got her way.
"What's interesting, after we, as a Region 2 school, started playing Mixed 6, others have started playing, too," she said.
As a result, Region 2 is now in the process of requesting a berth at future state championships.
"I have to admit I've become hooked on Mixed 6," said Klaich, who coached girls volleyball at Nikolaevsk until a point came when there weren't enough girls in the 70-student K-12 school to make a high school team. "It's really an exciting sport. To see them work together, the camaraderie and the dynamics are great."
Other teams competing in the tournament included the Chignik Lake Wolves coached by Joe Ward, the Anderson Grizzlies coached by Tim Fraychineaud and the Arctic Village Neetsa'ii Warriors coached by Terry Reed.
Awards given following the tournament included:
* Best all-academic team: Glacier View;
* Sportsmanship team: Kodiak ESSS;
* Most valued player: Blake Klaich, Nikolaevsk;
* All tournament team: William Lind, Chignik; Justin Phillips, Kodiak ESSS; Miranda Roub, Glacier View; Nianiella Dorvall, Nikolaevsk; Stephanie Brenteson, Kodiak ESSS; Blake Klaich, Nikolaevsk; Alyssa Chichenoff, Kodiak ESSS; Anatoli Fefelov, Nikolaevsk; Carlen Thiessen, Glacier View; Kilina Klaich, Nikolaevsk; Robert Van Daam, Glacier View; Jewel Shanigan, Chignik.
Last week, as Nikolaevsk was preparing for the Mixed 6 competition, basketball season was getting underway.
"We were playing double last week," said Klaich, who also coaches the Nikolaevsk girls basketball team. Steve Klaich coaches the boys team. "It was difficult because you run a whole lot more in basketball than in volleyball and (the athletes) were tired by the time we got to volleyball."
The first basketball games for the girls and boys teams will be at the Cook Inlet Academy Classic in Soldotna on Dec. 13-15.