The Homer volleyball team is going on a roll at the right time of the year.
With the conference tournament three weeks away, the Mariners continued a string of solid play by sweeping host Kenai Central 25-20, 25-17 and 26-24 in nonconference action.
Homer coach Beth Trowbridge, whose squad improved to 7-5 overall, said the team has come together nicely since, one week ago, senior Kyla Pitzman returned from four weeks on the bench due to an injury.
“When she got hurt, we had to shuffle players around and we lacked firepower,” Trowbridge said. “We served well and passed well, but we couldn’t get the ball down.”
Pitzman had been playing outside hitter before she got hurt, but in her absence Jane Rohr and Larsen Fellows solidified themselves as outside hitters, so Pitzman moved to the middle.
Friday showed how potent the lineup can be as Rohr had nine kills and three aces, Fellows had five kills and three aces, and Pitzman had four kills.
“(Pitzman) got her hands on a lot of balls, which was important because Kenai hits pretty hard,” Trowbridge said. “That gave us a chance to get them up.”
The Kards started fast, bolting to a 7-1 lead in the first game as Alli Steinbeck, who finished with 16 assists and an ace, reeled off five straight service points.
But Homer was able to largely control things the rest of the way. Trowbridge said the key was tough serving.
“I told the girls to serve hard so Kenai would struggle with their passing and wouldn’t be as awesome on the attack,” Trowbridge said.
The Kards trailed 20-12 in Game 3, but didn’t go down easily. A kill by Rohr made it 24-17, but Kenai got the serve back when Homer served out.
Abby Beck, who had seven kills and five aces, stepped to the line and kept Homer off-balance with a mixture of power and touch serving. A kill by Abigayle Tuttle, who had five kills and an ace, tied the game at 24.
But Pitzman restored order with a kill, then Rohr ended the match with a service winner.
Trowbridge said her team could be prone to costly errors, especially as the pressure mounted, early in the season. Finishing out Game 3 was a step forward.
“The team I had earlier in the season would have crumbled and lost their mental edge,” Trowbridge said. “We’re getting mentally tougher and more confident.”
The coach added that Homer’s defense did well against Kenai’s attack. McKi Needham and Maggie Larue each had 10 digs, while Needham added 20 assists. Malina Fellows had three aces for the Mariners.
Kenai coach Tracie Beck, who also received six kills from Emily Koziczkowski and five kills from Kiana Harding, said her team is still struggling after two players left the squad Monday.
Beck said Homer played well, but added that the run at the beginning of Game 1 and at the end of Game 3 shows the Kardinals are capable of beating the Mariners.
“We just have to get over our loss,” Beck said.
Anchorage Christian 3, Kenai 2
Coach Beck said her team played a bit better in losing 5-25, 25-22, 26-24, 17-25 and 15-13 to the visiting Lions on Saturday to fall to 7-8 overall.
“The girls worked hard, they just couldn’t pull it out at the end,” Beck said.
Harding had 17 kills, while Beck had 13 kills and Koziczkowski had five kills. Amber Walter and Steinbeck each had 10 assists, while Jamie Bagley had 28 digs.
Beck added 10 digs and four aces, while Harding had three aces.