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Bethel volleyball team ends season with state championship run

The Bethel Regional High School volleyball team competed in the 2021 state volleyball tournament for the first time since 2007.
Nili Sundown
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The Bethel Regional High School volleyball team competed in the 2021 state volleyball tournament for the first time since 2007.

The Bethel Regional High School volleyball team finished their season on Friday, Nov. 12 when they were knocked out of the 3A State Championships. The Lady Warriors traveled to Anchorage after winning regionals the week prior, becoming the first Bethel team in 14 years to make it to the state tournament.

After overcoming the shock of making it to the state bracket, the Bethel athletes had to get used to playing in such a large arena: the Alaska Airlines Center.

“It's kind of crazy in there. The ceiling is, like, triple as high as our school ceiling in the gym. And the lights are super bright,” senior co-captain Jordan Wheeler said. “So it just feels like it's a real tournament. So you kind of have to get rid of the nerves and everything.”

After getting over their nerves, the girls took to the court to face Seward on Thursday, Nov. 11. With each set, the Bethel team earned more points. They lost the first match 25 to 13. They came back in the next round stronger, putting up 17 points to Seward’s 25. The girls brought the heat to the third match as well, putting up 19 points to Seward’s 25. The match ended 0-3, dashing the Warriors’ hopes to progress toward the state championship.

Bethel competed in a consolation bracket on Friday, Nov. 12. Bethel faced off against Homer, who won the first two sets of the match 25-13 and then 25-11. The Warriors came back hard in the third set, putting up 24 points, but ultimately gave up 26 points to Homer for another 0-3 match. Homer went on to win third place statewide.

The Warriors’ success this season was, for some, surprising. Last year’s season was cancelled due to the pandemic, and half the team had no varsity experience. In the 2019 season, the team won few games.

Senior co-captain Ava Lieb said this season it took a bit of time getting used to success on the court. “So our very first game, we won, we were on the court, and everyone's looking at each other like, ‘Oh, my God, we won!’ Like, this feels so weird, but it's awesome,” Lieb said. “And then, after winning so many games, we just, it was like, This is what we're meant to do, like, to win.”

Despite no wins over the long weekend, Bethel still has a lot to be proud of, according to first year head coach Ryan Wheeler. “I know they were disappointed they didn’t play their best at state, but that shouldn’t take away from the season they had.”

“I’m proud of the girls and their accomplishments this season. They came a long way throughout the 14 weeks we’ve been together,” Wheeler said. “They are great young women and they represented themselves, their families, the community, and their school with class all year long.”

Updated: November 16, 2021 at 11:36 AM AKST
Despite no wins on the court, the girls did win an award for the highest collective GPA for the 3A conference. Their collective GPA for the season was 3.85.
Elyssa (she/her) is the Wellness Programming Producer and a second year Jesuit Volunteer/Americorps Member at KYUK. She loves dogs, listening to podcasts and playing ABBA to close out the Birthday Line.
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