The Kenai Central volleyball team lost just one set in a 2020 season truncated by the pandemic before losing five seniors, including three starters.
The loss of all that experience hasn’t hurt the Kardinals yet as they won all their games at the season-opening jamboree Saturday in Homer, then swept visiting Sitka on Wednesday 25-22, 25-15 and 25-16 in nonconference action.
“When you’re practicing against that caliber of a team, that’s hugely beneficial to everybody that is coming to step in,” Kenai Central coach Tracie Beck said of her team’s quick start.
The Kardinals defeated Sitka at state two years ago. Beck said four players from that Sitka team were on the floor Wednesday, yet the Kardinals were still able to roll.
Kenai has some experienced players itself. Erin Koziczkowski, Andie Galloway, Emma Beck and Valerie Villegas all got significant varsity experience last season.
Galloway, Koziczkowski and Beck each had six kills, while Villegas added 12 digs. Galloway and Koziczkowski had five aces, while Beck had three aces. Beck added two stuff blocks, while Jorgi Phillips had 18 assists.
Beck was happy with the way that experience mixed with newcomers against Sitka.
“They’re a tough group of hitters,” Beck said of the Wolves. “They’re very tall and very consistent. They can put the ball in the corner, or where they want to put the ball.”
Kenai’s players were not the only ones who showed up Wednesday.
“We’ve always had an amazing crowd, except for last year,” Beck said. “It’s super fun to have the crowd back and the kids involved. It just makes for such a fun atmosphere.
“They definitely showed up tonight. It was loud.”
For the most part, Kenai was in control of each game. Every time Sitka threatened, Kenai had an answer.
“They really seem to thrive and play their best when that pressure is on,” Beck said of her team. “That’s hard, for kids to step up into that role.”
Kenai hosts Bethel in another nonconference match tonight at 7 p.m.