Most underdog volleyball teams from rural Alaska just have to face bigger rivals on the court. The girls volleyball team from the small southwestern Alaska village of Koliganek survived near-disaster Wednesday en route to the state tournament in Anchorage after its plane was forced to King Salmon for a rough landing on badly damaged landing gear.
"Me and the other coach, we grabbed hands and prayed," assistant coach Anastasia Ishnook said Thursday afternoon after the team finally got to Anchorage. "I turned back to my girls and I said, 'Don't be scared. God is with us' right when we were about to land."
The twin-engine Piper Navajo touched down -- and then the left landing gear folded, according to King Salmon airport manager Kyler Hylton, who stood watching with a fleet of fire trucks and ambulances as the aircraft approached.
The plane tilted left and skidded about 1,000 feet down the icy runway, sparks flying, before coming to a stop.