Chugiak HS Volleyball

2007 Chugiak Varsity Volleyball News

CHS 2007 Girls Volleyball Team selected for National All-Academic Team Award.
By DAVID MORSE For The Star Aug 7, 2008

The Chugiak Mustang girls volleyball team was the only high school team in Alaska to qualify for the American Volleyball Coaches' Association (AVCA) Team Academic Award selection for the 2007-08 season. The honor was the program's fourth under coach Gary Steinfort.

“Even though we did not make it to state this past year, we were the only high school in Alaska to qualify for the award,” Steinfort said. Only 128 teams nationwide received the honor. “Winning is important, but academic excellence combined with sports is more meaningful and long lasting. I always worked on balancing practice time with the need for the girls to keep up with their class work,” said the former coach.  Steinfort said the high distinction is an excellent item for his players to include in their college file and portfolio. The team's plaques and certificates should arrive from AVCA by mid-August 2008.

Eagle River, Chugiak highs finish strong in conference play

For The Star


Chugiak High School hitter Celestia Bowlus goes up for one of her eight kills against Palmer High School in non-league action Saturday at Chugiak. The Mustangs lost in five games, 25-20, 25-15, 18-25, 15-25, 15-8.

The Chugiak and Eagle River high school volleyball teams completed their Cook Inlet Conference schedule with a strong surge of two league victories heading into the end-of-season tournament beginning today at Service High School. Eagle River defeated Bartlett High School 3-1 in their senior night contest Oct. 23, then swept West High School 3-0 Oct. 25.

The Mustangs swept opponents Service and Bartlett on the same two dates. Now, both teams ready for post-season competition, where a loss - particularly in the first round - would result in elimination from a trip to state, the season’s highest goal. Last year, Chugiak made the trip, placing third in the conference tournament and advancing on to finish fifth at state.

Eagle River and coach Bobbi Mason are looking for their first ticket to the dance. Unfortunately, that card could be at the expense of Mason’s alma mater, Chugiak High. Throughout the season, play has been tight between the two teams, with neither team successfully defending their home court. Chugiak beat Eagle River on the Wolves’ home court Oct. 5, only to have the Wolves reciprocate in the Mustangs’ gymnasium Oct. 16. Now, the rubber match will be held on the Service High court.

Hope springs eternal for both teams, with coaches pleased with their end-of-season runs. Against Service, the Mustangs played some of their best volleyball all season. “The team’s serve receiving pass was the best for the season and helped set up an excellent offense,” said Chugiak coach Gary Steinfort. Defensive specialist Katie Losey was credited with 17 digs, often putting the ball on the fingertips of setter Caela Kaszuba, who had 11 assists. Christine Henie had eight kills, while Katrina Hansen added five and Celestia Bowlus four. “Our team adjusted well to Service’s offense and had a great night,” continued Steinfort. The three-game sweep was significantly better than the team’s loss to Service in five games earlier in the season. With the pair of victories, Chugiak finished 7-7 in conference play for fifth place.

With the bracketing, Chugiak now plays Eagle River 8-6 on the year.

Eagle River coach Mason has been working on the team’s mental game this season. With the physical play maturing along with the development of the team’s five seniors, now in their third year at Eagle River, along with a solid crop of juniors, the Wolves are formidable. Twice the Mustangs nearly took down Dimond High School, the early season leader, pressing the Lynx to five games.

Eagle River’s strength comes from their back row forward with junior defensive specialist Kelsey Huerta keying the offense with passes to senior setter Jennifer Marshall. From there, the offense can come from one of three primary targets, namely Nicole Viotto, Lindsay Sommer and Shayla Dahl. Recently, Kayle Purinton has also been getting the dishes from Marshall or the team’s other setter Lisa Young. But Viotto is the team’s big gun, finishing out the season with huge numbers, namely 18 kills against Bartlett and 15 against West High School. Viotto’s spikes are particularly effective from the left side, as the right-hander often crushes the ball at a sharp angle inside the 10-foot line on the court. During the senior night game with Bartlett, Viotto was impressive, admitted Mason during the match. “You are going to want to see her numbers,” said Mason over the bench. Viotto finished with 18 kills, 24 defensive digs and five service aces.

Chugiak and Eagle River will have to be at their best against each other tonight as they square off today at Service. Only the top three teams of the Cook Inlet Conference’s eight-team field advance to the state tournament Nov. 8 through Nov. 10.

Chugiak JV volleyball team finishes strong to win end-of-season tourney

The Chugiak High School junior varsity volleyball team saved their best play for last, winning their season-ending tournament at Eagle River High School Saturday. The team, 12-2 during the regular season, with losses to South and Dimond high school, made amends, sweeping their competition down the stretch.The four-match tour to the team championship included a 25-5, 25-10 win over Bartlett High School, followed by a 25-12, 18-25, 15-11 thriller over Service High School and wins over South High School, 25-23, 25-15, and Dimond High School, 25-19, 26-24.

“I knew we were in for some tough matches because every match against South and Dimond had gone down to the wire,” said coach Kelly Kavanaugh. All three teams, Chugiak, Dimond and South, won tournaments throughout the season. “We were dead even,” he added. Even so, Chugiak confirmed their top-seed ranking for the tournament.Kavanaugh said the team reached an apex of play during the second game of the semifinal with South. “At one point, I thought we could have played their varsity team,” he said. The South Anchorage varsity team is ranked number one in the Cook Inlet Conference heading into the conference tournament, which begins today.

The coach said the entire team was locked in for the confrontation. “All the players contributed with continuous talk, hustle and aggressive play,” he said.

In the final two matches, Kavanaugh reported that Laila Hansen had 15 kills, with Emily Watzke adding 12 and Amber Allum 10. Albright served up 13 aces, while Robyn Burton had 14 blocks and Jessica Eicher contributed 49 defensive digs. Team members included Julie Albright, Jessica Vargo, Liz Hunt, Robyn Burton, Laila Hanson, Krysten Labrecque, Amber Allum, Emily Watzke, Natasha Batchelder, Lily Hunter, Jessica Eicher and Molly Wolf Victory is served C2 Team wins tournament

Victory is served, C2 Champions



The Chugiak High School C2 volleyball team poses following their recognition as the East Open volleyball tournament champions Saturday. Chugiak defeated Dimond High School, South High School and Service High School during pool play, seating the Mustangs first, South second, Dimond third and Service fourth going into bracket play.

During bracket play, Chugiak defeated Service 25-12 and 25-15 and moved on to claim the championship over Dimond with 25-12 and 25-19 victories. Pictured from left to right are Shelbi Walker, Jessica Wilder, Amber Williams, April Labrecque, Shannon Yates, Lauren Baumgartner, Coach Krystin Willburn, back row, April Alley, Andrea Foster, Danya Schimmack, Robin Frost, middle row, and Alex Amidon, Josi Hartley, front row.

For The Star
Chugiak came up short in both matches last week, losing in five games to South Oct. 9, then being swept 3-0 to West High School Oct. 11.

The Mustangs' 6-foot setter/hitter Kasey Kavanaugh paced the team with 11 kills and three blocks against South, with teammate Celestia Bowlus recording nine kills and two blocks. Setter Caela Kaszuba handed out 17 assists. Chugiak played the West Eagles in a tough game one, losing 26-24 before folding 25-18, 25-19. Senior Katrina Hansen and junior Celestia Bowlus combined for 11 kills.

The unsung heroes of the volleyball court

IN THE TRENCHES: No glamour in digging up spikes, but teams don't win without a good back-row gang.

By VAN WILLIAMS Published: September 28, 2007

The volleyball seemed destined to hit the floor until Lauren Fulton sprung into action. The Dimond High player reached out at the last moment to get a hand on the ball and keep the Lynx in the rally. Dimond went on to win the point that helped it beat two-time defending state champion South. And Fulton's quick reflexes on the back row didn't go unnoticed.Moments after Fulton dug the screaming spike by South star Sarah Hibbert, Dimond coach Kim Lauwers locked eyes with Fulton and pointed at her."You made that happen," Lauwers shouted. Fulton's point-saving dig epitomizes the dirty work of a player on the back row. They are the last line of defense, responsible for digging every ball that gets by the blockers.

And much like offensive lineman in football, these players are seldom noticed unless they make a mistake."Their role is often overlooked by the press and fans since they rarely score a point for the team," said Chugiak coach Gary Steinfort. "But every time they dig up a spike, they prevent a point."

Big hitters who rack up kills normally get more attention. "Nobody comes to watch somebody dig the ball," said South coach Judy Knecht. "They come out to watch (hitters) bang the ball." Knecht wasn't dogging on the back-row players. She believes defensive specialists are arguably the most important players on the court -- without them, how else would the hitters get the ball? "Ball control is everything," she said. "You can have the big kids (up front), but if you don't have ball control it won't do you any good." South's top players on the back row, Knecht said, are Kelli Menghini and Erin Ersland. "They read the ball real well," she said. "It's all about getting where the blockers aren't. You can have blockers at the net, but there's still going to be holes." Anticipation is just one of the keys that makes a defensive specialist reliable.

"I think there are three primary things that make these players successful -- quickness, willingness to sacrifice the body and the ability to read the other team's offense," Steinfort said. "Reading the hitters is a very tough skill to teach and acquire. But good anticipation can make up for some shortcoming in quickness." Steinfort said Chugiak's top two back-row players are 5-foot-5 Katie Losey and 5-3 Jessica deMontfort. Losey had 21 digs recently in a four-game win over West. "Their passing is very important to setting up the offense," he said. "As a coach I'm always on the lookout for a great passer and digger to make a complete team."

The net reaches 7 feet, 4 inches in high school, so it's easy to assume short players should roam the back and taller players should guard the net. But that's not always the case, Steinfort said. Taller players generally have longer arms, which could help them reach balls easier than shorter players. "One year my best digger on the team was the tallest player," Steinfort said. "She had a great ability to read the hitters and position herself in the correct defensive spot, so she did not need to dive for the ball much."

Getting in front of booming spikes demands a fearless attitude, Fulton said. You can't be afraid of the ball or possibly taking one off the face. "You just can't psyche yourself out," she said. "Once you get over the fear of the ball, you'll be fine." And if a player does take one off the noggin? "It happens," Fulton added with a laugh. "Just get back in the game and forget about it." Digging the ball isn't just crucial for the defense -- it's also the first step in getting the offense in rhythm.If the pass is on the money, Lauwers said, it makes the setter's job that much easier."We have some amazing hitters. If we can get that ball up to our setter, we can run the offense I want them to run and our hitters are able to put them down," she said."You need to get that dig right up to your setter so you can run a full-system offense."

Chugiak volleys past East 3-1

Daily News staff
Published: September 26, 2007
Last Modified: September 26, 2007 at 06:10 AM

Celestia Bowlus' team-high 11 kills and five aces propelled Chugiak to Tuesday's CIC victory against East. Kasey Kavanaugh registered eight kills, while Katrina Hansen had four blocks for the Mustangs, who won 19-25, 25-20, 25-14, 25-21. Jordan Martin led the T-birds with 15 kills, and Kasilia Pence chipped in six. Amanda Ng of East High attempts to hit the ball past defenders Celestia Bowlus and Chelsea Guarco of Chugiak in volleyball action Sept. 25, 2007, at East High. Bowlus' 11 kills led Chugiak to a 3-1 win over the T-birds.


Story Last modified at 11:19 a.m. on Wednesday, September 26, 2007

For The Star

Chugiak High has a three-win, three-loss record, with their most recent decisions one of each, defeating Bartlett in three Friday after losing to Service in five, 25-21, 24-26, 20-25, 25-17, 15-10, Tuesday. “Our slow start in game one against Service really cost us the match,” said Mustang coach Gary Steinfort. “We should have been able to beat them in three close games instead of losing in five,” he said. Although down by 11 points in the initial game, the Mustangs rallied and although they lost that game, the impetus carried onto the next game, which the team won, noted the coach. Steinfort said the Mustangs struggled with their service receive despite a season-best game by Chelsea Guarco, who paced the team with 10 kills and 10 digs. Katie Losey had 12 defensive digs, while Katrina Hansen had five blocks, four kills, and Celestia Bowlus had four blocks, four kills.

The team rebounded to handily beat Bartlett 25-12, 25-9, 26-24 Thursday. The coach said Jessica deMontfort helped the team with 15 defensive digs to jumpstart the squad's serve/receive numbers. “Our serve/receive passing was up 30 percent over the match with Service,” said Steinfort. Bowlus led the team with 10 kills, while Hansen had eight, and Christine Henie seven. Setter Caela Kaszuba had a season-high nine aces and 21 assists. In game two, Kaszuba served 16 points in a row. Chugiak hosts first-place Dimond High School tonight, with varsity play at 7:15 p.m.


Eagle River, Chugiak high teams win in light week

For The Star. This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, September 20, 2007.

Chugiak High School and Eagle River High School girls varsity volleyball teams both recorded victories last week, as Eagle River upended Wasilla High School three times straight, and Chugiak beat West High School 3-1 in the season's least busy week.
The break couldn't have come at a better time for Chugiak, with members Christine Henie and Kasey Kavanaugh out of state, said Mustang coach Gary Steinfort. Steinfort said he was trying to plug holes, with the absences of Henie and Kavanaugh, and was pleasantly surprised with the play of junior varsity player Emily Watzke, who received the call up. “She did a great job as an outside hitter,” he said.

The Mustangs got off to a slow start, before pulling off a 25-23 win in the first game. Chugiak steamrolled the Eagles in game two, 25-8, then lost game three, 19-25. “It was kinda an up-and-down evening for us,” said Steinfort. Fortunately the team finished on an upswing, settling the match with a 25-14 blitz in the fourth game. Steinfort said the team continued to serve well with 97.5 serve efficiency and 17 percent aces.

Standouts included Caela Kaszuba with 19 assists, 13 kills and eight aces; middle hitter Celestia Bowlus with six kills, three blocks; sophomore Lauren Washburn seven kills, two aces; and Watzke, with six kills.“We had a well-balanced offense from all the players during the match,” he added.

The Mustangs, currently 2-2 in Cook Inlet Conference play, have two home matches this week, having hosted Service High School Tuesday and facing Bartlett High School tonight at 7:15 p.m.

Both Chugiak and Eagle River sport identical 3-2 overall records. Their first meeting is Oct. 5 at Eagle River.

Mustangs win, lose and fly to Phoenix

For The Star 6 Sept 2007

With a win, a loss and a game yet to be played, the Chugiak High School Mustang varsity volleyball team may find themselves in hot water, or at least hot weather, as they attend the Queen Creek Invitational outside Phoenix this weekend.

Members of the Chugiak High School varsity volleyball team celebrate one of 22 points won on a defensive block during their match with East High School Tuesday. Chugiak won their season-opener in four games, 25-22, 21-25, 25-17, 25.18.

Head coach Gary Steinfort said his team is looking forward to a return engagement at the event, after winning the silver bracket in the annual 18-team tournament last year. Overall, last year's Mustangs placed third in the end-of-season Cook Inlet Conference tournament and fifth at state.

Steinfort said the Mustangs have room for improvement, particularly in the area of passing the ball.“All we need to improve on is our serve receive, and then things will pick up,” he said Sunday.Right now, the team's strength is their serving and blocking ability.

“Against East, we had 22 points off blocks — that's unheard of,” he said. The defensive points also compensated for an off night passing, securing a victory in four games, 25-22, 21-25, 25-16, 25-17.

Steinfort credited sophomores Christine Henie and Kasey Kavanaugh with eight kills each, with Kavanaugh, a 6-1 setter, also scoring points with nine blocks. Setting up the pair was junior setter Caela Kaszuba, one of three setters for Chugiak. The coach also praised Jessica deMontfort for her fine performance at her defensive specialist position.

Things did not go as well in Chugiak's game with Dimond Aug. 30, with the local team losing in four games, 25-9, 25-19, 18-25, 25-22. Henie again led the team with eight kills, with senior Katrina Hansen adding five, along with eight of the team's 15 points on blocks. Steinfort said he has been very pleased with the team's serving, missing only four attempts in the last two matches. Chugiak hosted South High School Wednesday, but results were not available.

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This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, September 6, 2007.

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