The Kenai Central volleyball squad took another loss to a Northern Lights Conference opponent Thursday night at Cliff Massie Court, but the program took another valuable step in the pursuit of improvement.
The Kodiak Bears prevailed won in four games, with scores of 25-13, 26-24, 21-25 and 25-13.
First-year Kenai head coach Pako Whannell said the revamped Kardinals, which lost seven seniors from last year’s team, have steadily made gains as the season hits its halfway point. Whannell said Mayzie Potton and Sam Kompkoff got some varsity minutes last year, but every other player is new to the varsity squad.
“I’m so proud of them,” Whannell said. “We’re so young … we have such heart, and this is where we wanted to be.”
Kenai dropped to 0-4 in NLC play and 0-5 overall, while Kodiak moved to 1-2 in the conference.
Kenai outside hitter Mayzie Potton led the Kardinals attack with 11 kills, while Jaiden Streiff added nine kills, Denali Lockwood had seven kills and Nikki Prior notched six kills and four more on blocks.
“Defensively this is the best we’ve played,” Whannell said. “At West we had a couple good games, and I was just trying to get them back to that.”
The biggest obstacle the Kards dealt with was Kodiak setter Ruth Dela Cruz, who appeared all over the court Thursday. Dela Cruz finished with eight kills, 12 assists and five aces that punctuated a tough service game.
Kodiak head coach Amy Willis said Dela Cruz has provided the Bears a solid dose of power this season.
“If she’s firing, everyone’s firing,” Willis said.
Kodiak took advantage of Kenai mistakes to stake out leads of 14-6 and 21-10 in the first game as they cruised to a 1-0 match lead.
Kenai woke up in the second game with a series of kill points and tipped balls at the net that led to a 10-4 lead, but Kodiak responded with four straight to cut the lead to two.
A pair of points from Lockwood pushed the Kenai lead back to five, but the Bears came right back again to tie it at 14 apiece. Kenai led 19-15 after a service point by Kompkoff, but Kodiak raced back on a 7-0 run to take a lead thanks to aggressive serving by Jesse Macariola, who pumped in two service aces.
A kill point by Streiff and a dropped ball by Kodiak allowed Kenai to tie it up at 23- and 24-all, but the Bears scored the final two points on an out-of-bounds call and a service point by Kathleen Banks to take a 2-0 match lead.
Kodiak took a 20-16 lead in the third set, but three service points by Kompkoff put Kenai right back in it on a 5-0 run, and the Kards finished off the Bears with a 9-1 run to end the set, which was capped with a Potton tip at the net to cut the match lead to 2-1.
“That was the calmest game we’ve played,” Whannell said. “It was pass, set, attack. Pass, set, attack. We were organized, and nothing was chaotic.”
A serve into the netting by Kailey Hamilton to open the fourth set sparked Kodiak to a 5-0 lead, which quickly turned to 8-1 and 15-6 before Kenai called timeout. With Dela Cruz hitting service aces by the Kards, the home team had trouble making up the gap and eventually was handed the loss.
Kenai Central will host Nikiski next Tuesday.
Homer 3, Redington 0
The Mariners swept the Huskies Thursday night in Wasilla with scores of 25-14, 25-10 and 25-18, improving to 2-2 in conference play and 3-4 overall this year.
Laura Inama led Homer with 11 digs, Karmyn Gallios notched 12 digs and four aces and Kelli Bishop provided six kills.