Sep. 7—The most highly anticipated match of the week and arguably of the 2023 high school volleyball season so far didn't disappoint or lack excitement. Bettye Davis East bested reigning Division I champion Dimond on Wednesday night to remain as the Cook Inlet Conference's only unbeaten team.
After sweeping their first three opponents in three straight sets, the Thunderbirds faced their toughest test to date when they hosted the Lynx on their home court in front a lively crowd.
Dimond battled back after dropping the first two sets, but East showed poise and resiliency in its first five-set match of the season and emerged victorious 3-2 (25-19, 27-25, 13-25, 23-25, 15-13).
"It honestly feels really good and I know my team has worked really hard for this and I'm super proud of them for that," East senior setter Athaliah Faiilagi said.
The Thunderbirds had this game circled on their collective calendar because they knew a win over the Lynx would be momentous. East last topped Dimond in 2019.
"I think we showed the conference that East is here," Faiilagi said. "This is a big confidence booster because Dimond is one of the best teams. Not many people look at us like we're a good team so we're here to prove that we are."
The win marked the Thunderbirds' fourth in a row to start the regular season and they believe it sends a clear message that they are a state contender.
"I think everybody knows we're on the map right now and we're going to keep it like that for the next couple of years," senior middle blocker Monika Rezic said.
This clash between the two teams that were unbeaten heading into Wednesday's match lived up to the hype and was tightly contested throughout.
Every set went down to the wire with the exception of the third set, dominated by Dimond. In the third, East came out flat after a second set in which it rallied from six points down take a 2-0 lead.
The Thunderbirds had a chance to secure the victory in four sets and built a narrow 21-18 lead but ultimately couldn't hold onto it.
"I think that's what we needed to remind us that we still need to fight regardless of what team (we are playing) or the (outcome of the) first three sets," East hitter Jirah Boma said. "We always have to fight and keep pushing."
The fifth and final set featured several examples of all-out effort by both teams as players were repeatedly diving to keep plays alive and yelling to communicate.
"I just tried to encourage everybody else and was like 'We've gotta keep going. We can do it. I know we can.' And we did," Rezic said.
East led 10-6 at one point in the final set before Dimond tied it 13-13. East won the final two points to secure the win.
Boma has been an offensive force for the Thunderbirds and a terror for opposing teams during their hot start and was impressive again as she led the team with 15 kills and recorded five aces as well.
She was a seventh-grader at Clark Middle School when East last beat Dimond and says this triumph "means a great deal to this program."
"I think this sends the message that East is here and we're here to win," Boma said.