By JEFF HELMINIAK
It’s not often Kenai Central volleyball coach Tracie Beck gets the pleasure of sitting down and enjoying her team’s play.
Beck normally stands the entire match, shouting instructions at her squad. Tuesday, Beck sat as the host Kardinals defeated Soldotna 25-13, 25-10 and 25-20 in nonconference action to improve to 12-0 overall in nontournament play.
“This is how you want to see your team peak at the end of the year,” Beck said. “I got to sit down and just enjoy watching them do their thing.
“It was one of those proud moments where you are like, ‘OK, we’ve done everything we possibly can to get the team where we want them to be, and they just took it and ran with it.’”
Beck said one of the few times she was able to sit as a coach was when the current group of four seniors were eighth-graders on Beck’s squad at Kenai Middle School. Those seniors — Andie Galloway, Valerie Villegas, Erin Koziczkowski and Brooke Ashley — were honored for senior night as they played their last match at home.
“I’ve been coaching them since middle school volleyball, so I’ve been watching them for six years of volleyball,” Beck said. “I just couldn’t be more proud of the people they are, and the way they give back to the community.”
Galloway once again put her all-around game on display with eight digs, seven kills and two aces. Koziczkowski had six kills, while Villegas had 21 digs.
“It was just really special, but it was kind of to be expected with our undefeated record,” Koziczkowski said. “It was a good way to end our last game on this floor.”
Beck said the other members of the team were motivated to perform for the seniors. Emma Beck had 10 kills, while Jorgi Phillips had 27 assists and four aces.
Soldotna coach Luke Baumer, whose squad fell to 3-11 in nontournament play, had nothing but praise for the Kardinals.
“They got it all,” he said. “They got the attackers, they got the defense, they got the serving, they got the setting. The one thing that I was hoping was that, ‘Well, let’s see how they perform under pressure.’
“And of course, they can do that.”
In the third game, the Stars were right with the Kardinals, trailing 21-20, before Kenai pulled off the final four points for the victory.
Baumer said the constant pressure created by Kenai is draining. Whether it’s trying to get into your offense off Kenai’s tough serves, or having to figure out a way to get the ball down on Kenai’s defense, the constant effort wears on the opposition.
“For the most part, I credit all Kenai,” Baumer said. “I don’t think that it was that we didn’t perform, though we could have performed better.”
Aleena Zener had eight digs for the Stars, while Chloe Armstrong had six kills and two aces, Katelyn Morrison had six kills and Adarra Hagelund had two blocks. Baumer also said Nicole Dickinson did a nice job stepping in at setter with eight assists.