Kenai’s Valerie Villegas receives a serve during the team’s volleyball game against the Soldotna Stars on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai’s Valerie Villegas receives a serve during the team’s volleyball game against the Soldotna Stars on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai volleyball tops Soldotna

By JEFF HELMINIAK

Peninsula Clarion

The Kenai volleyball team took the win over Soldotna in four games Thursday night at Soldotna High School.

Kenai head coach Tracie Beck said her team continued to play a tight match even after the SoHi Stars forced a fourth game.

“They’re a consistent group of kids, you can see that they don’t get rattled and they just play hard,” Beck said. “It’s fun to watch them and I know what’s going to happen … they continue to fight for every point and I just love that.”

Kenai started strong against Soldotna, winning Game 1 25-20 after some long volleys. The Stars came back and played evenly with the Kardinals in Game 2, but Kenai pushed ahead and capitalized on serve-receive errors to win the second game 25-22.

Capitalizing on some Kenai mistakes, the Stars came back in set three to beat the Kardinals, 25-21, and force Game 4.

Kenai and Soldotna were neck-and-neck for the first seven points, remaining at tie score, but the Kardinals scored a few crucial points that led them to inch ahead of the Stars little by little. They won the fourth game 25-12.

Beck said Andie Galloway, Erin Koziczkowski and Valerie Villegas were a few of Kenai’s standouts in Thursday night’s match.

Villegas had 26 digs, Galloway had four aces and nine kills, Koziczkowski had 11 kills, and Emma Beck had six kills and six blocks.

“It’s hard because there’s a lot of people doing a lot of great things,” she said. “It was a good game overall.”

Soldotna head coach Luke Baumer said the Stars played well through all four sets, but that the team needs to work on the final touches.

“I think we did a pretty good job for the most part tonight on being able to stay motivated enough to be able to stay in the match,” he said. “I think that the one thing that we really also need to work on is being able to finish … to finish the attack or finish putting the ball away.”

Baumer said the Stars were excited after they won the third set, but couldn’t come back to beat Kenai again in game four.

“We got a really big high, we were really excited,” he said. “And then toward the end of the set, we tend to start trickling off and start to lose gas, and then it was really tough for us to try to bounce back after that.”

Baumer said Kenai is a tough team to beat.

“They’re a really strong program,” he said. “Tracie’s done an amazing job with her program building up from the bottom.”

Chloe Armstrong led Soldotna with eight kills, and Katelyn Morrison followed up with five. Aleena Zener had 12 digs. Emma Brantley had 15 assists, while Adarra Hagelund had five blocks.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

The Soldotna Stars volleyball team huddles during their match against the Kenai Kardinals on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

The Soldotna Stars volleyball team huddles during their match against the Kenai Kardinals on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

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