By JEFF HELMINIAK
The host Kenai Central volleyball team pulled off a massive comeback to defeat Homer in five sets in Southcentral Conference volleyball action Thursday.
The Kardinals move to 7-0 and 4-0, while Homer falls to 5-1 and 2-1.
Homer took the first two games 25-18 and 28-26. The Mariners then went up 18-9 in the third game. After that, it was mostly Kenai. The Kards came back to take the third game 26-24, then won Game 4 25-16 and Game 5 15-12.
“I think the realization finally hit that we’re like, ‘Oh my goodness, we’re gonna lose. It’s gonna be our first loss,’” said Kenai’s Andie Galloway, who had nine kills. “And I think Emma (Beck) did a really good job at bringing the girls up and actually giving us a pep talk.”
Beck, who also had nine kills, also did a good job getting the Kardinals going from the service line. Kenai was down 20-12 in Game 3 when Cali Holmes, who had six stuff blocks, had a kill to get the ball to Beck at the service line. She then served out seven straight points to cut the gap to 20-19.
The game between the two undefeated teams was then tied at 21, 22, 23 and 24 before Kenai’s Jorgi Phillips, who had 30 assists and five aces, had the play that may have swung the match. Phillips lunged for a ball and bumped it up, not only saving the point for the Kards, but also getting Kenai the point when the ball went over the net and found the floor on Homer’s side.
Beck then clinched the game with a kill.
After Kenai rode that momentum to a Game 4 win, Game 5 also was tight, with the score tied at 12. A Beck kill got it to 13-12, then Beck and Erin Koziczkowski combined on a stuff block and Koziczkowski had a solo block to finish the match.
Koziczkowski had nine kills and five stuff blocks, while Valerie Villegas had 34 digs.
“I think that this game, we started out looking at the other team and really focusing on them,” Galloway said. “And we didn’t focus on ourselves enough. So we started celebrating each other’s wins, and each other’s points. Even if we just got a touch and didn’t get the ball up.
“It was a baby steps type of thing.”
Kenai assistant coach Bruce King said the key to the turnaround was starting to match Homer’s intensity and better passing.
King has been involved in high school volleyball on the peninsula for about three decades and said he’s never seen a Class 3A team that has four players with great swings each match, as the Kardinals do.
“We just have to be able to pass,” King said.
Gracie Gummer had 20 kills and 12 assists for Homer, while Brooke Shafer had 30 assists and six aces and Izzy Dye had six kills. Homer coach Stephanie Carroll also said Zoe Adkins had an incredible night digging the ball up.
Carroll said the curtailed season in 2020 is still affecting her team.
“There’s a lot of inexperience,” Carroll said. “The girls, sometimes they’re able to bounce back. But the younger and less experienced they are, the more the momentum swings can get them.
“So we have a couple rotations that are pretty inexperienced, and it’s hard to get a good attack. And that’s where we usually struggle.”
Seward 3, Soldotna 2
The visiting Seahawks pulled off a nonconference victory Thursday. Seward is 3-1 overall, while Soldotna is 1-6.
The scores were 17-25, 25-16, 25-20, 20-25, 19-17.
Chloe Armstrong paced Soldotna with 15 kills, while Jolie Widaman added seven. Adarra Hagelund had 10 blocks for the Stars, while Nicole Dickinson had 20 assists, Aleena Zener had 14 digs and Nicole Dickinson had six aces.