In a classic Cinderella storyline, the Palmer Moose went on a tear Friday at the Northern Lights Conference volleyball tournament to punch its ticket to state.
The No. 4 seed Moose began the day with a 3-0 win over fifth-seed Kodiak to advance into a matchup with the No. 1 seed Colony Knights.
The Moose then upset the Knights 3-0 to clinch the second state berth from the conference, punctuating the match with a third set score of 25-5.
Palmer capped Friday night with a 3-0 victory over host SoHi to clinch a spot in Saturday’s championship game. The Moose prevailed with scores of 28-26, 25-15 and 25-17.
The astonishing run left the field wide-eyed.
“Palmer, wow, did they come on like nobody’s business,” said Soldotna head coach Luke Baumer. “When I saw how they beat Colony, I thought hopefully we can hold our own at this point.
“Their outside hitters were just absolutely destroying every team from every angle.”
In the loser-out game, Wasilla, which lost Thursday to Soldotna, beat Kodiak 3-0 to eliminate the Bears.
After knocking out 29 kills against Wasilla on Thursday, SoHi outside hitter Ituau Tuisaula notched 12 kills and two aces against Palmer. Senior hitter Bailey Armstrong added three kills, junior setter Sierra Kuntz provided 17 assists, senior libero Holleigh Jaime had 15 digs and senior middle Serena Foglia added two blocks.
Baumer said the Stars didn’t necessarily play bad against Palmer, but the Moose just continued to find ways to pummel their way past SoHi’s front line of defense.
“We stayed together, had good energy and were getting a lot of balls up and going through the strategy we wanted,” he said. “The problem was their outside hits were so strong they were busting through our blocks.”
Baumer said Palmer’s run was a classic case of anything-can-happen in postseason tournaments.
“I told our girls, when the teams are this close, this tight in our region, it really is anybody’s game,” he said.
With Palmer and SoHi having clinched two of the three bids from the region to the Class 4A state tournament, that leaves one spot available. Colony and Wasilla will fight for that last spot Saturday at 10 a.m. The winner of that game advances to play Soldotna at 12 p.m., and the winner moves on to the championship game against Palmer at 2 p.m.