The Thunder Mountain High School volleyball team poses with the Dimond Service Volleyball Tournament Silver Bracket championship trophy at Service High School on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. The Falcons defeated West Valley High School 2-1 (21-25, 26-24, 15-12) to win the title at the tournament hosted by Service and Dimond high schools of Anchorage. (Courtesy Photo | Julie Herman)

The Thunder Mountain High School volleyball team poses with the Dimond Service Volleyball Tournament Silver Bracket championship trophy at Service High School on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. The Falcons defeated West Valley High School 2-1 (21-25, 26-24, 15-12) to win the title at the tournament hosted by Service and Dimond high schools of Anchorage. (Courtesy Photo | Julie Herman)

Thunder Mountain nets tourney title in Anchorage

Falcons’ defense helps swing the tide in championship game

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Thunder Mountain’s Silver Bracket title was its first, based on wrong information provided to the Empire. The Falcons also won the Silver Bracket in 2017. The article has been updated to reflect the change.

A first-set loss in the Silver Bracket finals didn’t rattle Thunder Mountain High School at the Dimond Service Volleyball Tournament on Saturday.

The Falcons tightened up their defense after losing the opening set against West Valley High School, pressing on for a 2-1 (21-25, 26-24, 15-12) victory for their second-ever Silver title at Service High School in Anchorage. TMHS placed fifth in the Gold Bracket last year at the two-day, 20-team tournament.

“Our defense really shined through,” TMHS coach Julie Herman said on the final game. “They had to pass really well so we could run a really fast offense because they were running a fast offense at us.”

The Gold and Silver brackets each consist of eight teams while the Bronze Bracket has four. The first- and second-place teams in pool play on Friday move into the Gold Bracket and the third- and fourth-place teams go into the Silver Bracket. The pool play matches were two sets apiece to 25; the bracket matches were best-of-three sets.

The Falcons secured two crucial points at the end of the second set against West Valley. The teams were tied at 24-24.

“It was like magical, almost like that’s all that mattered at that moment,” Thunder Mountain senior libero Bridget Gehring said of the late surge.

TMHS placed third in Pool D behind East Anchorage and Colony. Like in Saturday’s match, Thunder Mountain faced adversity to start the tournament, losing handily to East Anchorage 2-0 (25-12, 25-12).

“I think if you ask the kids that might have been their most favorite game,” Herman said. “East smoked us, but they just were running a really fast offense and we were just excited to play some really good volleyball. And so we’ve been looking forward to coming up north because we know it’s a fast-paced volleyball, and we got to play along with it.”

“Even if we didn’t win, we played really good volleyball, the other team just happened to be more shiny,” Herman added.

With the blowout loss out of their system, TMHS went on to defeat Lathrop 2-0 (25-19, 25-20), lose to Colony 2-0 (25-17, 26-24) and split with Nikiski 1-1 (25-22, 23-25). On Saturday, TMHS faced Homer and Kodiak in the first two rounds, winning 2-1 (25-17, 19-25, 15-10) and 2-0 (25-23, 25-19), respectively.

Senior Tasi Fenumiai had a team-high 23 kills on Saturday. Junior Mariah Tanuvasa-Tuvaifale and Gehring had 33 and 30 digs, respectively, over the three matches.

Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé finished last their pool. The Crimson Bears shared Pool A with Wasilla, Eagle River, North Pole and Homer, all of whom swept the Crimson Bears in pool play. The Crimson Bears were downed by Kenai 2-0 (25-16, 25-23) in the Bronze quarterfinals before winning via forfeit over Lathrop in the consolation finals.

The Falcons’ achievement follows strong outings in Sitka and Juneau.

At the Juneau Invitational Volleyball Extravaganza (JIVE) Tournament two weeks ago, TMHS defeated JDHS in the championship to claim its fourth consecutive JIVE crown. Earlier in the season, the Falcons lost in the first round of the Tacoma-Pierce County Volleyball Officials Invite in Washington.

“When we come up here it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re just the team from Southeast,’” Herman said. “So every time we play we want something to prove and want to say that Southeast got good volleyball.”

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