Story last updated at 2:50 p.m. Thursday, October 3, 2002

Spikers roll to tourney victory
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

photo: sports

  Photo by Sepp Jannotta, Homer News
Homer middle hitter Chelsea Ward blocks a hit by Ann Linville of Seward in the championship match of the Peninsula Challenge. Ward's 15 kills and 11 digs against the Seahawks were instrumental for the victorious Mariners.  
Spectators at tournament competitions are often witness to one of the truly great aspects of sports -- a confidence-generating gelling of talent and circumstances that is known as the hot streak.

The Homer High School volleyball team treated its hometown fans to an impressive display of this type of momentum last weekend as it swept to the title of the two-day, eight-team Peninsula Challenge tournament.

"It's a team effort," senior Chelsea Ward said of the momentum Mariners gathered over the course of the tourney. "Volleyball is really a mental game. If you don't have your head in the game and your mind focused on being aggressive, you're not going to make any headway at all."

The Mariners finished the tournament a perfect 6-0 and only dropped two games, one each in a pair of matches with tournament runner-up Seward.

The Mariners dispatched the Seahawks 2-1 (15-6, 11-15, 15-10) in Saturday's championship match.

Ward, a middle hitter, turned in a typically outstanding show at the net, nailing 15 kills and adding 11 digs and three solo blocks. Outside hitter Holly McCune was all over the court as she dug out 21 balls. Sara Thompson and Tabitha Johnson each served better than 90 percent, while Raquel Kreins and Sarah Manilisay each served up a pair of aces.


  Photo by Sepp Jannotta, Homer News
Photo by Sepp Jannotta, Homer News Homer Mariners' girls Volley Ball team celebrate championship win.  
Friday's action started with a sloppy opening-match win over Nikiski (16-14, 17-15), during which the Mariners struggled to convert from the service line as the Bulldogs chipped away point by point.

Homer then put it in high gear against West Anchorage, as Kreins and Thompson led the Mariners to a 2-0 win (15-8, 15-2) over the Eagles with some outstanding serving. As the Mariners began to find the groove in the first game, Kreins reeled off a nine-point run from the service line, including a pair of aces. The Mariners never let West off the mat in game two, as Thompson served up four aces.

"We were really focused," Kreins said.

From there, the Mariners rolled to a 2-1 win over Seward, capping Friday's round-robin portion of the tournament with what Homer coach Beth Trowbridge called the most well-played match she's seen thus far this season.

"They play such an aggressive defensive game," Trowbridge said of the Seahawks. "They basically are capable of digging up everything you put over the net. So if you don't get a ball aggressively down, they will just dig it out."

That offensive aggressiveness showed up as the Mariners eventually overpowered the Seahawks in a marathon 21-19 game-three win.

Middle hitter Ward finished the game with 12 kills to lead the Mariners offensively, while outside hitter Holly McCune was a backstop, digging up 17 balls. Ward also posted four solo blocks.

As the play moved into the bracketed portion of the tournament Saturday, the Mariners dispatched both Houston and a tough Grace Christian team by a 2-0 count, setting up the title-game rematch with Seward, which beat Skyview. Skyview eventually knocked off Grace to claim third.

Ward and McCune were both named to the all-tournament team. Ward averaged 12 kills per match, a pace better than five per game, while McCune averaged 14 digs per match, or six per game. McCune also had seven kills per game.

But for Trowbridge, the true measure of her team's success at their tournament was that the supporting cast stepped up and contributed to each victory.

"That's the team aspect that we need," she said. "If it's only the 'Chelsea and Holly show,' the other team will just pick up their game against those two. It's definitely more a team now than it's been in the past, and as a coach that's the big agenda."