Kenai Central won the Southcentral Conference volleyball championship Saturday at Redington Sr. Jr/Sr High School by sweeping Homer.
The Kardinals completed a clean sweep of all their matches in the tournament by downing the Mariners, the defending conference champions, 25-11, 25-11 and 27-25.
Kenai moves to 18-0 in full-length matches, only dropping three games in those matches.
Both the Kardinals and Mariners earn automatic state berths by reaching the final. The state tournament is Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.
“It’s unbelievable. To be honest, I couldn’t be more proud of these girls,” Kenai head coach Tracie Beck said. “We’re still chasing the dream. They were, ‘All right, this is fantastic. Now let’s go.’
“I don’t think they’re content yet, and that makes me happy as a coach.”
Seward made itself eligible for an at-large berth by winning third place Saturday. Early Saturday, the Seahawks reached the third-place match by topping Nikiski in four games. Seward then defeated Grace Christian in four sets for third place.
Kenai earns a return trip to Class 3A state after finishing runner-up in 2019, while Homer, the 2019 Class 3A state champ, makes a third-straight trip to state.
There was no conference or state tournament in 2020 due to the pandemic. The Kardinals were dominant in 2020 while being limited to Kenai Peninsula competition by the pandemic, not losing a game.
“The seniors from last year were robbed of an opportunity, and they’re still super invested in the program, as are the parents,” Beck said. “One of the craziest dads got scrunchies for all the tournament bags.
“They’re really wanting it for these girls even though they’re not playing.”
In the championship match, Jorgi Philliips had 19 assists and three aces, while Emma Beck had 10 kills, 10 digs, three stuff blocks and three aces. Andie Galloway added 10 digs and four kills, while Valerie Villegas had 16 digs and an ace, Kim Chanley had nine digs and an ace, Erin Koziczkowski had three kills and two stuff blocks, and Cali Holmes had three kills, two stuff blocks and an ace.
Coach Beck said her squad showed some nerves in closing out the last game.
“They worked through it and it was amazing to watch them work through it,” Beck said. “They’re not a perfect team, but they’re working hard to reach their goals.”
While the Most Valuable Player in the conference went to Leah Buller of Grace Christian, Kenai put five — Beck, Koziczkowski, Galloway, Phillips and Villegas — on the first team.
“I would take five girls on the all-tournament team over MVP any day,” Beck said. “I’ve never put that many girls on an all-tournament team before.”
In the loss to Seward, Nikiski received 17 digs from Mckinlee Jeffreys, 15 digs from Rylee Ellis, 15 assists and seven kills from Jaycee Tauriainen, seven kills from Avery White, and six kills and two blocks from Ashlynne Playle.
Nikiski coach Stacey Segura wrote in a text message that she’s happy her team played well despite a lot of misfortune to end the season.
Due to a positive COVID test in the program, the team was shut down for 10 days, starting up again the Wednesday before the tournament. Then in a Thursday practice, Savanna Stock was lost to an injury, forcing the team to change all its rotations.
“They played so good and worked hard, we are happy they ended in a positive way!” Segura texted.
Kenai 3, Seward 0
The Kardinals defeated Seward 25-21, 25-18 and 25-15 in the semifinals. Jorgi Phillips had 17 assists and two aces, Emma Beck had 11 digs, seven kills and two aces, and Andie Galloway had seven kills and four aces.
Homer 3, Grace Christian 2
Homer defeated Grace Christian 25-22, 21-25, 25-18, 20-25 and 17-15 in the semifinals.
Gracie Gummer had 12 kills for the Mariners, while Izzy Dye had nine kills, Olivia LaFleur had seven kills and Brooke Shafer had 30 assists.
Nikiski 3, Houston 1
The Bulldogs moved to the third-place semifinals by knocking off the Hawks. Maggie Grenier and Rylee Ellis each had 15 digs, while Grenier had 18 assists, Ariel VanZandt had eight kills, Ashlynne Playle had seven kills, Kailey Stynsberg had five aces and Rylee Ellis had four aces.
Kenai 3, ACS 0
The Kardinals started the tournament Friday with a 25-6, 25-10 and 25-7 victory over the Lions.
Jorgi Phillips had 15 assists and three aces for Kenai, while Emma Beck had 11 kills and five aces, Kim Chanley had three aces and Valerie Villegas had 10 digs.
Seward 3, Redington 0
The Seahawks took a first-round Friday game from the Huskies by scores of 25-22, 25-20 and 27-25.
Homer 3, Houston 0
The Mariners got a Friday first-round victory over the Hawks by scores of 31-29, 25-12 and 25-21.
Gracie Gummer had 18 kills for Homer, while Olivia LaFleur had 10 kills and Brooke Shafer had 33 assists.
Grace Christian 3, Nikiski 0
The Bulldogs fell to the Grizzlies in the first round Friday. Jaycee Tauriainen and Mckinlee Jeffreys each had 15 digs, while Rylee Ellis had four kills, Ashlynne Playle had four kills and four blocks, and Ariel VanZandt had five blocks.
Southcentral All-Conference Volleyball awards
Most Valuable Player — Leah Buller, Grace Christian.
Coach of the Year — Liane Ryan, Redington.
First team — Emma Beck, Kenai; Erin Koziczkowski, Kenai; Peyton Blanton, Grace; Zoe Adkins, Homer; Lexi Seymore, Redington; Shelby Sieminski, Seward; Gracie Gummer, Homer; Andie Galloway, Kenai; Jaycee Tauriainen, Nikiski; Jorgi Phillips, Kenai; Valerie Villegas, Kenai; Brooke Shafer, Homer; Hannah Schilling, Seward.
Second team — Caprice Damon, Redington; Gaia Casagrande, Seward; Lily Hulst, Grace; Emily Bittler, Houston; Abbie Baird, Houston; Mckinlee Jeffreys, Nikiski; Susia Balsan, ACS; Rylee Ellis, Nikiski; Izzy Dye, Homer; Maria Bunch, Seward; Ashlynne Playle, Nikiski; Lia Vasquez, ACS; Grace Choi, ACS; Jenna Houck, ACS.
Honorable mention — Hannah Williams, Redington; Lilly Christiansen, Houston; Faith Sanders, ACS; Cali Holmes, Kenai; Anna Endres, Seward.
Good sport team — Aubrey Merriner, Grace; Delaney Reavis, Redington; Brooke Spain, Houston; Grace Choi, ACS; Emma Beck, Kenai; Lizzie Flodin, Homer; Shelby Sieminski, Seward; Maggie Grenier, Nikiski.