Boys’ volleyball team loses half its players before AWG
With just seven players, Alaska’s boys’ volleyball team is facing some hurdles at the Arctic Winter Games in Canada.
The coach filled the roster with 15; eight were kids from villages like Unalakleet and Point Hope who also play basketball.
Those eight found out just two weeks before the trip to Hay River their basketball teams made the state tournament which overlapped with Arctic Winter Games.
"We lost two boys from Noatak who were really good but they were the number one team in the state and they took state two days ago,” said Jerry White.
White is the only rural player left. The Hoonah athlete is proud to represent Southeast.
"It’s like the junior Olympics of the north. This is my first time playing international. This is a truly amazing thing my senior year, play international volleyball,” White said.
The lack of players was also good news for Hunter Beck from Kenai, who was on the alternate list.
"It was cool when I got the call. It was exciting,” Beck said. "There were a lot of people around me and I was like, 'This is the coach, guys, shhh,’” he recalled.
Boys’ volleyball isn’t a school sport in Alaska, so putting a team together is challenging. Other contingents have been playing together for months, while Alaska only had a couple of practices before the tournament began.
“Everyone knows what they’re doing. We’ve all played volleyball before. It’s just learning how we play with each other,” White explained.
The girls’ team had the same problems with players opting for hoops at home.
"You want to respect the families and the athletes’ decision and you want to encourage them to be multisport athletes. It’s important for them to support their community and it’s important for them to support their school,” coach Rachel Van Der Martin said.
She also tried to showcase the whole state with her roster.
Linnea Langseth from Valdez wasn’t able to be at the team tryouts, so she sent in a video reel that scored her a spot.
"I think it’s nice they get us kids from the small towns because we don’t always have the opportunity to play club and stuff, so it’s fun to get in the fast-paced ball,” Langseth said.
Both Alaska teams are up against some stiff competition, losing each of their matches to Alberta North on Tuesday.
The athletes are hoping to make it to a medal match but say it’s more important to have fun and play together as a team.
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