• Nine teams vie for city volleyball bragging rights
By Sean Pearson
Ask anyone who played for — or with — former Homer High School Coach Alice Witte, and they will tell you that sports and coaching “flowed in her blood.”
Witte, well-known for her coaching accomplishments in volleyball, ice hockey, basketball, softball, baseball, track and field, cross-country running and gymnastics at Homer High from 1975 to 1994, was a pioneer in women’s athletics, challenging traditional gender roles to become an outstanding college and international basketball player.
She led her Lady Mariner Volleyball team to State Championships in 1990 and ‘92, and was inducted into the Alaska High School Hall of Fame in 2008.
Following Witte’s 1994 death from breast cancer, the high school named its gymnasium after her. Her personal motto, “Play Like Crazy,” adorns the walls of the gym still today. Her spirit of fun and competition continues to thrive.
A total of nine teams competed in this year’s Play Like Crazy Tournament on Saturday. The tourney was held at Homer Middle School, as the high school gym overflowed with health fair offerings and exhibits.
“We had a great time this year, and I’m pretty sure this was the best turnout we’ve had in a very long time,” said Homer Head Coach Beth Trowbridge. “It was very competitive and super-fun; I would say it fit all of the ‘Play Like Crazy’ criteria Alice Witte would have set.”
Following a busy morning and early afternoon of round-robin play, the wisdom and experience of the Red Hot Drillers proved too much for the youthful exuberance of the Legion of Boom.
The Drillers, comprising Shari Ellison, Anita de Creeft, Charlie Walsworth, Rand Seaton, Zachary Travis and Zac Gardner, edged the younger set of high school basketballers in five close games to take the tourney title.
Teammates Sheldon Hutt, Quinn Daugharty, Kenneth Schneider, Paul Trowbridge, John Walsworth and Drew Brown joined eighth-grader and Lady Mariner Zoia Basargin’s younger sister, Raisa, in the Boom’s losing effort.
Third place in the tournament went to “Set to Kill,” a team made up of Mariner alumni Jessie Erickson, Jordan and Eric Tutt, Bailey Lowney, Dean DeVaney and Reba Temple.
Coached by McKi Needham, Izabelle Hagge and Lindsey Brown, Set to Kill fell 20-25 and 22-25 to the Legion of Boom.
Trowbridge said the Ball Busters, another team of young high schoolers with a lot of skill and athleticism, also gave the Boom a run for their money.
“That match was the most exciting and intense competition of the tournament,” she said. “They were really good, and the match was amazing to watch.”
Trowbridge said she thinks this year’s tournament was so successful because of a couple of things:
“The girls really love the tournament and the fact that they get to coach and run the whole thing,” she explained. “They have a lot of fun coming up with team names and making posters for their teams. They were scheming about teams clear back in September.”
Trowbridge said she is also seeing a resurgence of interest in volleyball at the adult level, with a new volleyball league starting up, and people in the community showing more interest in the sport.
The Lady M’s host the Play Like Crazy Tournament every year to raise money for the Alice Witte Scholarship fund. Money from the fund is used to send players to volleyball camp over the summer.
“We are hoping to be able to send two players to camp this year,” Trowbridge said. “We raised $1,200 between the sponsorships the girls got for their teams and the garage/bake sale we held at the same time.”
Prior to the championship match, Homer’s C and JV teams played their final home matches against Seldovia’s mixed-six team. The C-team loss, but the JV won.
The Lady Mariner Varsity squad then joined forces with several Legion of Boom players to face Seldovia in a modified mixed-six match after the tourney.
The Lady Mariners head to Seward this weekend for Regions, and will face Grace Christian at 11 a.m., Friday.
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