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Patriot spikers open 2021 season with home win

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 7:22 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Tuesday marked the first varsity high school volleyball game in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District since the 2020 season was cut short just a day prior the conference tournaments.

Fans, players and coaches were eager to get back on the court at North Pole High for the first serve of the 2021 season in the Interior.

While it was the Monroe Catholic Rams taking the first set 25-20, the Patriots settled in and bounced back in a big way. North Pole rallied back to claim the second set 25-20, with diving efforts and precision spikes on display.

North Pole took control of the match 2-1 after fending off the Rams to take set number three 25-22, before closing the deal 25-17 in the fourth and final set.

“We have kind of noticed after the last few weeks that scrapiness was kind of going to be our style and I think they definitely showed that tonight,” said first year Patriots coach William Johnson. “Monroe is equally scrappy, they’re a great team, but the girls were able to come together and play as a unit and we hope to see that moving forward.”

Seniors anchored the Patriots Tuesday as Jocelyn Harer had six kills, while Emma Enlow and Alivia Himebauch chipped in five apiece. Fellow senior Lindsey Elgin dished out 31 assists in the season-opening victory.

The new class of seniors and new head coach have stepped up and filled in the leadership roles of a program that saw some talent depart. 2020 graduates Ainsley Smith and Kinley Erickson are now teammates at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, while former head coach Rick Swankie was in attendance of Tuesday’s game as a fan - all three part of a North Pole program that launched the Patriots to a conference championship and state tournament appearance for the first time in 30 years.

“I mean, I don’t even know if I can even use words to properly explain that. I mean the whole reason why North Pole volleyball is the way it is, is because of the previous coaching staff,” Johnson added. “Rick Swankie has been phenomenal and has always been open to conversations with me and he clearly did a fantastic job. We are reaping the benefits of it today and we only look to continue that legacy moving forward.”

Delaney Ott led Monroe offensively with nine kills and 16 digs, while Cayla Hernandez handed out 22 assists.

Lathrop will visit Eielson on Thursday, while Hutch will host Mt. Edgecumb on September 1. Monroe will square off against Barrow next Thursday, while North Pole will take on Palmer.

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