The Kenai Central volleyball team avenged a loss to Homer in the Class 3A state championship match last season by sweeping the Mariners 25-21, 25-22 and 25-21 on Friday at Cliff Massie Court at Kenai Central.
“It’s been a grudge match all last year and the year before that,” Kenai Central head coach Tracie Beck said. “It feels pretty surreal to take it in three like that.”
The win also came on senior night for the Kardinals. Maria Shaginoff, Zaharah Wilshusen, Kaylee Lauritsen, Abby Every and Bethany Morris were honored before the match. The big night came so early in the season due to the uncertainty created by the new coronavirus pandemic.
“I have so many memories of senior night, but this one sticks out in my mind,” Beck said. “The way we played — this is a special group of kids.”
The Kardinals are now 3-0 overall, while Homer is at 4-1.
Both teams suffered some key losses after last season, with the Mariners losing four seniors and Kenai also losing four seniors, plus a libero who moved out of town.
Beck said her team is still very much a work in progress. The Kards have gone with a different rotation in all three of their matches now. The coach also said her squad normally serves consistently, but made some uncharacteristic errors in that department Friday.
Desire was enough to overcome that.
“They ended our season with a loss in the championship game,” Beck said. “A lot of determination and preparation went into this game. We had it in our minds that this is our year.”
Each game was close, but in each game Every and Morris were able to provide key kills late that served as the difference.
“Bethany and Abby — I’m glad they’re on my team,” Beck said.
Every had 10 kills, three stuff blocks and 11 digs. Morris had nine kills and 12 digs, while Kaylee Lauritsen had 28 assists and four aces. Also for the Kards, Erin Koziczkowski had four stuff blocks, Andie Galloway had five kills, Emma Beck had four kills and Valerie Villegas had 14 digs.
Homer head coach Stephanie Carroll said the Kards were a tough team in a tough environment.
“We didn’t do as well as we could have,” Carroll said. “It’s a hard gym to play in because of the noise of the crowd. We lost concentration a few times.”
In addition to the crowd, Carroll said missed serves and some nervousness caused by the Kenai block helped the Kards pull away at pivotal times.
“Momentum is a very fragile thing in volleyball,” she said. “We couldn’t seem to hang onto it.”