Homecoming. Senior night. Loud crowd. Big rivalry.
A lot was going against the Kenai Central volleyball team Friday night, but the Kardinals continued to show that doesn’t matter.
The Kards swept the Stars 25-14, 26-24 and 25-17 to move to 4-0 on the season and drop SoHi to 2-2. Kenai has yet to lose a game in a best-of-five-sets match.
“Kenai is a juggernaut of a volleyball team,” Soldotna coach Luke Baumer said.
Soldotna started slow after honoring seniors Morgan Bouschor, Sarah Rice, Abbie Fullenwinder, Sierra Kuntz and Taylor Edwards before the match.
A spurt of service points by Kenai’s Bethany Morris in the middle of the game meant the first game was never really close.
Kenai then led 20-17 in the second game before Edwards stepped to the service line. She ripped off seven straight points, six coming on aces, before Abby Every made it 24-21 with a kill for the Kards.
“Taylor served fantastic,” Kenai coach Tracie Beck said. “She did everything she could for them to win. That’s what senior night is all about.”
Even after the late-game haywinder from Edwards, Kenai rose by showing a characteristic that marks all great volleyball teams.
“They just keep playing with their nose to the grindstone,” Beck said of her squad. “They just know they can win.”
Taking advantage of a series of Soldotna hitting errors, Every served out five straight points for the victory.
Baumer said his team’s inexperience showed at the end of Game 2. SoHi has two returning starters, but that’s it for varsity experience.
“The Kenai crowd stepped in and got loud,” Baumer said. “Our girls made one mistake and turned cautious instead of being confident in what they were doing.
“We had the game in the bag. We just lost confidence.”
The Kards then zoomed to the three-game sweep, with Every punctuating the third game with a kill.
“Bethany and Abby — we tried our best to find a way to control them,” Baumer said. “They are tough hitters to try and control.”
According to Beck, Morris had some soreness in her hitting arm. She still had 11 digs, seven kills and three aces, while Every had 21 digs and nine kills.
Setter Kaylee Lauritsen, who had 20 assists, 12 digs and two aces, also mixed in six kills from Andie Galloway and five kills from Erin Koziczkowski.
“She’s as solid as they come,” Beck said of her setter. “She’s all over the court.”
Despite the loss, Baumer said the match was a step forward because his team looked so much more cohesive than in a loss to Homer the last time out.
“It was night and day from what I saw in Homer,” Baumer said.
Aleena Zener had 15 digs for the Stars. Baumer said his libero did a great job. He said the Stars have athletic blockers this year, but their arms aren’t long enough for a lot of stuff blocks, so Zener has to pick up balls behind them.