Photo courtesy ASLN.net
When Janelle Greenwood of Montana moved to Cordova three years ago she didn’t know many people in town.
Volleyball brought them together.
Her first year Greenwood was part of the victorious volleyball team at the annual Ice Worm Festival tournament. That led to her meeting a bunch of the local parents, who then asked her to coach their daughters on the high school team.
The team steadily improved year by year before breaking through this year to win the Borealis Conference tournament championship, which qualified the Cordova Wolverines to the state tournament for the first time since 2008.
“It’s been a lot of work but at the same time it’s been a lot of fun to watch them grow and get better and improve every year,” Greenwood told me. “They learned how to play with confidence and they learned that they were expected to win.”
Buoyed by tournament MVP Lindsay Phillips, Cordova beat Susitna Valley 25-15, 25-19 in the championship match only hours after Su Valley had beaten Cordova 25-20, 25-22, 28-26 to force the if-necessary match.
“It was a little discouraging to lose the first match because we hadn’t lost to them during the season,” Greenwood said. “We knew they definitely had the ability and the change to beat us. Anything can happen and Su Valley is a great team with a great coach.”
Cordova was out of sorts and so the team gathered for a pep talk between matches in an attempt to get back on track.
“We couldn’t get our rhythm,” the coach said. “As a team, we’re almost a family because we are so close. We’ve got a freshman that did a funny dance and we all started laughing.”
It broke the tension and allowed the Wolverines to relax. When they got back on the court they found their groove.
“Everything clicked,” Greenwood said.
Phillips, a 5-foot-7 outside hitter, is the team’s top scoring threat.
“She’s our go-to hitter on the outside,” Greenwood said. “She’s really smart but she’s also got a really, really good vertical.”
When she was named tournament MVP the announcer gave her called her ‘Leapin’ Lindsay Phillips.
“She does everything,” Greenwood said. “She serves, she digs, she sets if we need her to. She’s just a good all-around athlete. If she comes to play, she is very, very competitive, very positive.”
Phillips was named to the all-tournament team along with two teammates, setter Darian Sorenson and middle blocker Haley Hoepfner.
“Darian is really good at tipping. She will tip it behind her when everything thinks she is going to set outside. She has so many assists in the game. It helps to have hitters like Lindsay Phillips bring it home,” Greenwood said.
“Our two setters are the glue of the team. Our setters are what get everything rolling for us. They are floor captains.”
The 5-foot-9 Hoepfner averaged four blocks per match.
“She played exceptional,” the coach said. “They all did.”
Cordova will participate at the ASAA/First National Bank Class 2A Volleyball State Championships on Dec. 3-5 at Dimond High School.
From 2002 to 2008, the Cordova Wolverines were queens of the court in Class 3A, advancing to six consecutive state finals and winning of titles in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
Greewood is proud of the girls for getting the program back to prominence.
“This group of girls is outstanding. You don’t have to be around them very long to realize it’s going to be a good time,” she said. “They are there to work, and they wanted to learn. We’ve had so much fun. It’s been unreal.
Van Williams is a freelance writer in Anchorage and a correspondent for the Alaska Sports Activities Association.