Left, Kaylie O’Daniel and Helen Bruenger listen to their coaches during a home match with Porter Creek. Right, Camilla Gentili scores a winner tough winner against the Whitehorse team. Andrew Cremata

Volleyball team opens season with good showing at Sitka
Defending state runner-up’s goal to knock off Klawock

By JEFF BRADY

The Skagway High volleyball team came away with the runner-up award in the silver division of the Sitka All-Comers Tournament last weekend.
It was the varsity team’s first tournament of the season, though they had played an earlier exhibition match at home against Porter Creek from Whitehorse (see photos), in which they lost 3-2.
Cindy O’Daniel has moved into the head coaching position this year, after being an assistant last year to Becky Jensen, the new school activities director.
She said Skagway played teams from all over Southeast at Sitka, and did well against some 3A and 4A junior varsity teams. In the first round of pool play, they lost to Juneau and Klawock, beat Mt. Edgecumbe and Sitka, and then in a second pool split with Sitka and Thunder Mountain. This put them in the silver bracket, where the Panthers opened with a victory over Juneau, and then lost in the final to Thunder Mountain, 26-28 and 12-25.
“The All Comers Tournamnet was our first real competition,” said O’Daniel. “My goal was to see where we are at and what to work on. Our defense was good, but our offense we need to work on.”
Starting for the Panthers are seniors Jesse Ellis, Kaylie O’Daniel and Kaitlyn Surdyk, juniors Anna Korsmo, sophomore Polly Brown, and exchange student Camilla Gentili. Coming off the bench on the traveling squad are sophomores Jaycee Ellis and Amanda Hoover, and freshman Hannah O’Daniel.
Also on the roster, comprising essentially a junior varsity team, are freshman Jade Cook and exchange students Helen Bruenger, Amanda Lervik, Lisa Buschmann, Cora Jacobi, and Mapi Ruggiero. This JV team traveled to Whitehorse for matches on Oct. 16. Although they did not win a match, O’Daniel says the group of inexperienced players learned a lot.
Next up on the schedule for Skagway is the Southeast 2A North Seeding Tournament, scheduled for Hoonah in mid-November. O’Daniel said Hoonah has yet to field a team due to eligibility issues, and if it does not have a team, then that tourney could be moved to Skagway.
Klawock, the defending region and state champion, appears to be the team to beat again. Skagway, the defending regional and state runner-up, again will try to knock them off. The Panthers posted a win over the Chieftains in last year’s region tournament held in Skagway, but lost to them in the championship match, and lost again to Klawock in the state finals.
This year’s region tournament will be held Dec. 3-4 at Thorne Bay, and State is Dec. 9-11 in Anchorage.

School Board rejects wrestlers’ request for late start

By JEFF BRADY

Despite hearing an impassioned plea from a small group of high school wrestlers wanting to be allowed a late start to the season, members of the Skagway School Board Tuesday night agreed not to overrule the superintendent’s decision that there be no wrestling program this year.
While board members said they supported having a program, the decision came down to the lateness of the request – past the halfway point of the season – and the need to follow board hiring policy.
The district had advertised for a wrestling coach in advance of the scheduled season start on Sept. 27 and received three applicants, said Superintendent Jefferie Thielbar, but at the time only one student was interested, he said. That was not enough to justify a coach and program, he said, so the three applicants were told the program had been cancelled.
Last week, the student, Devin Fairbanks, along with Danny Moore, who had recently returned to the district from Juneau, and two others expressed interest in getting the program going. They met with Thielbar in his office, who said he explained to them that the coaching position would have to be re-posted for two weeks and then they would need 10 practices before going to a meet. Looking at the calendar, he showed them that would not be enough time to be eligible for the final meet of the season before regionals, which is required for seeding at regionals and state.
Thielbar told them they could take the issue to the board, and showed the boys the procedure for submitting a petition. Fairbanks presented one with more than 100 signatures at Tuesday’s meeting. The petition cited the board’s policy in making extracurricular activities available for students, and Fairbanks alleged they were being “denied the opportunity to have a sport.”
Thielbar also had raised safety concerns about whether the boys could get in competitive shape in such short a time, but Fairbanks said they were in good shape and had been lifting weights and playing basketball. He and Thielbar went back and forth about what was said at the meeting.
The student ultimately asked the board to waive its hiring policy, or allow them to work under a volunteer until a new coach could be hired. He said there is money in the budget and equipment to start up wrestling. He made comparisons to the DDF program that was funded by the board a year ago after then-Superintendent Les McCormick scratched the program for a lack of students. When enough students came forward, the board overruled McCormick and restored the program, but it was early in a long DDF season.
Board members on Tuesday night said the students should not be making comparisons between programs.
Darren Belisle and parent Randy Wiley were concerned about the students. They said lifting weights and playing basketball is not the same as having weeks of two-hour practices to get ready to move a body on a mat.
“I commend them, but sometimes we have to listen to our elders,” Wiley said, who worried unprepared wrestlers could be injured.
Board members said they were in a tough position of wanting to support the kids, but not wanting to go against policy.
When asked if they could not just go back to the three previous applicants, Thielbar responded that would be unfair to anyone new to the community who may want to apply. Belisle said the position was effectively cancelled when Thielbar notified the three applicants there would be no program. Board members agreed with the superintendent that they would need to post the position for the required two weeks, and that would not leave enough time to get the boys ready.
“I hate to say no to you guys,” said member Chris Maggio. “…but we have policies in place for a reason.”
“I know it sounds hollow, but we’ve run out of time,” added Joanne Korsmo.
The wrestlers said they just wanted to wrestle, and it was suggested that they could form a club for this year.