From volleyball to basketball in the blink of an eye

A week after a fourth-place finish at the state 2A volleyball tournament, many of the same Cordova girls are practicing shooting a ball rather than spiking it.

Volleyball season is over, and basketball season is here. Led by the same talented seniors that took them to state in volleyball, the Lady Wolverines hope to also return to 2A state in hoops action, after narrowly missing out last year.

Riley Butler, Abby Bourgeois, Jieller Tabara and Edrea Navarro are all returning starters, and Coach Brad Sjostedt could open with an all-senior lineup if Keyona Mattson joins the first five.

There will be little time to adapt to a different ball, as the Lady Wolverines travel to Soldotna Dec. 13-15 for the SoHi Tip Off, which features 4A Kodiak, 4A Soldotna, 3A Bethel and 2A Cordova.

“They’ve worked hard and have played together for years,” Sjostedt said. “And they know what they want to accomplish in their final season.”

Sjostedt, who has been instrumental in the rebuilding process, has 14 girls out this year, meaning there will be JV and Varsity teams this season, a key to improvement.

Rounding out the varsity are sophomores Inga Arvidson and Andrea Vargas, plus freshman Gwethalyn Jacob, Cali Sjostedt and Alana Esquerra.

JV’s include freshmen Tia Wade and Jacey Pallas, plus senior Keila Gonzalez.

Following the SoHi tournament, the Lady Wolverines will travel to 3A Redington on Dec. 21 and 3A Houston on Dec. 22 for more road action.

Toss in the Rally the Region tournament on January 2-5, and the CHS girls will have played one third of their schedule in eight away games before they face 2A conference opponent SuValley here on Jan. 11-12.

“It’s a challenging but good way to start the season,” Sjostedt said. “Tough competition can only make us better.”

And the schedule doesn’t get any easier. The Cordova Tipoff on Jan. 17-19 features visiting squads from Metlakatla, Pt. Hope and Palmer.

Cordova’s only other conference home games will be on Feb. 19-20 versus Effie Kokrine.

This senior-laden team with high hopes of making it to State will play their final home games on the shiny new floor at CHS, as Regional playoffs will be March 7-9 in Cordova.

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Dick Shellhorn is a lifelong Cordovan. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 50 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016 and 2020, and third place in 2017 and 2019. He also received second place for Best Editorial Commentary in 2019. Shellhorn has written two books about Alaska adventures: Time and Tide and Balls and Stripes. Reach him at