Unalaska Raiders celebrate nine seniors at first regional volleyball match of the season
Alaska student athletes — especially those in remote parts of the state — have a unique experience compared to most sports teams in the Lower 48.
Rural students only get so many chances to travel and compete. And usually, those trips involve at least a day of travel time on planes, buses, and sometimes even boats. On top of that, weather can cause flight cancellations or delays. So when student athletes in Unalaska make it off the remote island to compete, or get the opportunity to host a team, they have to make it count.
“You can't really have a bad day because if you have a bad day, that could be four games that we play,” said Unalaska volleyball head coach Rachel Peter.
Peter has coached the island’s volleyball team for about five years. She said sometimes the team has to play around 15 games in one weekend. And some of those can be really high stakes for the athletes, who are hoping to get a good seat in their regional tournament later in the season.
For their very first match of the season, Unalaska hosted Lumen Christi, a private Catholic high school in Anchorage. And not only was it their first conference match, but it was also senior night for nine of the student athletes.
Prior to the game, Peter said she was anticipating a lot of intense emotions from the athletes, especially from the older ones.
“It's going to be interesting tonight, first game and senior night,” she said. “It's going to be a weird mix of emotions.”
And she was right. Friends, family and fans packed the stands, while the team hugged one another, their tears and laughter carrying through the high school gym.
Technically, the Raiders had already faced Lumen Christi in a couple of matches the Thursday before their senior night. In total, they played six matches over the weekend. Peter says that’s the point — to get in as much play time as they possibly can.
“I'm trying to get some of my younger girls some experience also, which is why it's so awesome to have home games, and have a team like Lumen who's willing to play a lot of games with us,” she said.
But Saturday night’s game was the one that really mattered.
“We have to play everybody in our region at least once,” Peter said. “And that's how they seed our regional tournament. So tonight will be our first regional game. Hopefully we can get a win under our belts.”
That night, Unalaska lost to Lumen Christi in their first regional match of the season. But Peter said this team is resilient and she’s looking forward to the rest of the season.
“A lot of them have not really had the chance to be like the star of the show,” she said. “And yesterday, at their first match, when they did, I was very proud of them. They were all swinging. They were all cheering for each other. They did not play timid, and I'm really, really excited to see where we can go this season with nine seniors who are ready to go and ready to compete. And I think it’s going to be a good year.”
The Unalaska High school volleyball team will travel to the Susitna Valley Invitational Oct. 27. There, Peter said, they’ll play conference matches against Su Valley, Cordova and Ninilchik.