For a time Friday night, it looked like the Nikiski volleyball team could do nothing right.
With Anchorage Christian Schools dropping game balls on Nikiski’s court and the Bulldogs making uncharacteristic mistakes in the second set that resulted in a tied match, the home team appeared a chaotic group of misfits.
But like the defending state runner-ups have done before, they pulled it together and knocked out another victory, this one a 3-1 win over Southcentral Conference opponent ACS. The Bulldogs won with scores of 25-11, 19-25, 25-20 and 25-12.
“It was just one of those weird games,” said Nikiski head coach Stacey Segura.
Nikiski stayed undefeated at 9-0 overall and 8-0 in the conference after toppling Seward 25-22, 25-14 and 25-13 on Saturday. ACS is 2-2 in conference play, 11-12 overall after defeating Homer Saturday.
The Bulldogs were playing without senior Melanie Sexton, a powerful outside hitter that was lost to an ankle injury Monday in practice. With Sexton out of the lineup, Segura moved senior Rylee Jackson to the outside position and put sophomore America Jeffreys on the back row.
“We were dealing with the new rotation, and with Melanie out, we were just flat,” Segura explained. “In the second game I think we were a little overconfident.”
It was Nikiski’s game early on as the Bulldogs broke out of the gates to an 11-3 lead, thanks to a string of spot-on serves by Jeffreys and a savage hitting game at the front by Bethany Carstens. Carstens finished with 11 kills and two blocks for the night.
The second set featured a much different look. A pair of kill points by Anchorage’s Jessie Davis and Kira Keller sparked an early ACS run that forced Segura to call timeout at 13-7.
When the Bulldogs’ back line wasn’t hitting balls outside the lines, Nikiski’s net minders were spiking the ball into the netting, giving ACS free points. The Lions also played smartly by letting stray balls go out in close situations.
Anchorage Christian head coach Serge Duchatellier said the momentum of the game helped give the Lions some positive energy, and the team fed off that.
“It’s a hit game for us,” Duchatellier said. “When one or two balls get down, we stay hyped up.
“It can be so easy for us to fall into this, ‘Oh woe is me,’ thing, and the negative energy spreads like wildfire.”
Duchatellier commended the efforts of junior libero Mary Kate Parks and junior outside hitter Davis, who stymied several Nikiski runs up front, as well as the serving of Keller, a sophomore middle hitter.
A service ace by Keller forced Nikiski to call time again with ACS leading 19-12, and Keller pulled the trick again out of the break to continue a seven-point run that forged a 23-12 ACS lead.
However, an out call by ACS began a 7-1 rally by Nikiski that ultimately fell short, but provided a positive turn of momentum for the Bulldogs.
“The third game we came back from such a hole, I think it helped us get things turned around,” Segura said.
A kill by ACS middle Meagan Severson clinched the set win and tied the match up at 1-1, but Nikiski was back on the attack.
Things stayed close in the third set until a kill by Carstens tied it at 11-all. From there, Nikiski took a lead it would never surrender. The Bulldogs led 21-15 before ACS called timeout, and a service ace by junior exchange student Elisa Fardin put Nikiski at set point, which it won with a net mistake by ACS to take a 2-1 match lead. Fardin ended the night with 18 digs and four aces.
Two quick outs by ACS sparked a 4-0 run by Nikiski to start the fourth set, and while Anchorage came back to tie it up at 5-all on three straight service points by Keller, the Bulldogs soon turned up the wick with an 8-1 run and never looked back. After taking a 20-10 lead, Carstens helped Nikiski finish off the match with three consecutive tip kills and a stuff block with Emilee Tiner. Rylee Jackson ended the night with a hit that ACS could not handle.
Through it all, Kaitlyn Johnson provided 12 digs and three aces for Nikiski, Kelsey Clark notched 21 digs, Jamie Yerkes had seven kills, Ashlee Tiner hit six kills and Emma Wik recorded two aces.
Saturday, the Bulldogs came back with a strong effort against Seward. Segura said the squad wanted to win in three and never be down by more than three points. Nikiski was never down by more than two.
“The girls knew how important this game was to keep us in the top of regions,” Segura said. “They came out positive, kept their composure and were very consistent.”
Johnson had five aces and 15 assists, Clark had four aces and 16 digs, Yerkes had seven kills, Carstens and Ashley Tiner had five kills, Carstens had two blocks, Wik had nine assists, and Elisa Fardin had 15 digs.
Nikiski hosts a showdown with Soldotna on Tuesday at 5 p.m. It will be senior night and Nikiski athletic director Dylan Hooper will attempt to set a record for most weight held by a beard.
“It should be exciting,” Segura said. “I hope all the stuff doesn’t distract us.”
Seward 3, Homer 1
The Seahawks came away with a Southcentral Conference victory Friday night with scores of 25-21, 23-25, 25-15 and 25-7.
Laura Inama led Homer’s effort with 16 digs, three kills and three aces, whiel Karmyn Gallios added 20 digs and four kills. Also for the Mariners, Marina Carroll blocked four balls and Ksenia Kuzmin provided six assists.
ACS 3, Homer 0
The visiting Lions notched a 25-22, 25-21 and 25-20 conference victory Saturday.