An early season slate of nonconference matchups with bigger teams has left the Nikiski volleyball team feeling the burn, and Tuesday night was no exception.
Kenai Central showed up to Nikiski and swept the Bulldogs in straight sets, winning with scores of 25-23, 25-18 and 25-22. Kenai jumped to 3-2 overall with the win, while Nikiski slumped to 5-3.
“That was tough,” said Kenai coach Tracie Beck. “It wasn’t an easy sweep.”
The night was special for fans of all sides. Both teams wore jerseys with gold on them to promote Childhood Cancer Night. Kenai competed with all-gold jerseys and Nikiski played with white jerseys highlighted by gold numbers, and all entrance fees were donated to the cause, something that both coach Beck and Nikiski coach Stacey Segura hold dear to their hearts.
Kenai will be hosting its own cancer awareness night on Oct. 17 when Nikiski visits the Kards for “Killing Cancer on the Kenai” night.
Nikiski has pushed several strong teams to the brink this season, including five-set losses to perennial 3A state contender Grace Christian and 4A squad Soldotna, so the Bulldogs have proven they can compete, but Tuesday’s loss left a little to be desired for coach Segura.
“I think we were lacking the hard work and communication,” Segura said. “It was like our feet were stuck in the mud, we could not move.”
Early on, Kenai was beating Nikiski with a brutal serving game by several players. Abby Beck got the party started with four straight service points that capped a 9-0 run, bringing Kenai from four points behind to leading by five at 17-12. Beck finished the night with eight kills, nine digs and five service points
Then, Mayzie Potten got in on the serving action, racking up a couple of points to bring Kenai close to match point at 22-13, but the Bulldogs fought back with a run of their own. A stifling front-court blocking tandem by Ayla Pitt and Jamie Yerkes put several balls on Kenai’s court to close within a point of Kenai with a 10-2 run, but a fast kill by Abby Beck ended the comeback, clinching a 25-23 win.
“We had strong serving playing up in Anchorage (at the West Spiketacular),” Beck said. “But our serve-receive has improved immensely.”
A close game in the second set finally opened up late when Kenai scored four of five points to take a 20-17 lead, forcing Nikiski to call timeout. After the short break, Nikiski scored the first point, but Kenai finished with five unanswered points to win 25-18 on a service point.
An early 10-6 lead in the third game left Kenai looking good to sweep, but Nikiski roared back to tie it up at 14, thanks to three straight service points by Yerkes.
Nikiski took a late 19-18 lead after a net violation by Kenai, but the Kards answered back. Kenai took the last lead of the night with a service point by Potten, and Emily Koziczkowski iced the 25-22 set win and match victory with several killer points at the net. Koziczkowski finished with five kills and five blocks.
Also for Kenai, Bethany Coghill provided 16 assists and eight digs, Cierra King had six service points and three digs, Caleigh Jensen notched three service points and six digs, Jillian Kindred had 12 digs, Patricia Catacutan recorded 11 digs and Potten notched seven digs.
Yerkes led Nikiski with eight kills, four aces and two blocks, while Pitt notched five kills and two blocks. Melanie Sexton provided 17 digs and five kills, Kelsey Clark had 19 digs and Brianna Vollertsen finished with five kills and three blocks.