Nikiski netters celebrate senior night by topping Seward

The host Nikiski volleyball team celebrated senior night on Friday by avenging an earlier-season loss to Seward.

The Bulldogs wrapped the regular season with a 26-24, 25-23 and 25-19 victory over the Seahawks, who had notched a 3-1 victory over the Bulldogs on Oct. 6.

Nikiski finishes the Southcentral Conference at 5-5 and will host the tournament next weekend. Seward falls to 1-8 in the league.

“Tonight, we were feeling really motivated,” said senior Lauren O’Brien, who was honored along with fellow seniors Brittany Perry, Zykiah Cooney, Hannah Love and team manager Destiny Owens. “We wanted to send the right message.

“The last time we played them was disappointing. I don’t think we were thinking about volleyball.”

Seward coach Jamie Fredrickson said the Bulldogs played a better match this time.

“The major difference is Nikiski wasn’t going to let it happen,” Fredrickson said. “Our team tends to play the same no matter who they are playing.

“When Nikiski played us in Seward, they made a lot of errors. This time they didn’t make as many errors.”

The Bulldogs were toughest on the points that mattered the most, pulling out come-from-behind wins in Games 1 and 2.

In the first game, Seward’s Tia Miranda ripped off five straight service points for a 21-17 advantage. Jessica Fry had a kill to give the Seahawks game point at 24-21.

But Brianna Vollertson earned a side-out with a block, then Emma Wik, who had eight assists and three aces in the match, served out four straight points. Seward didn’t return two of the serves, and made hitting errors on the other two points.

Fredrickson said the Seahawks’ attack is a work in progress. At the beginning of the season, Seward was hitting the ball and not trying to place it. The coach has been trying to get her squad to place the ball better.

“We couldn’t close out the first two games and we’ve struggled with that all season — being aggressive at the end of the game,” Fredrickson said. “We need more precision on our hits, but practice makes perfect, and we haven’t practiced it enough yet.”

In the second game, Miranda had a kill for a 23-19 advantage, but again the Bulldogs responded. After gaining a side-out on a missed Seward serve, O’Brien, who had 28 digs, served out five straight points for the win. Ayla Pitt, who had nine kills and two blocks, had kills on two of those points.

“When we really needed to stop them, it seemed like we just got the ball to Ayla,” O’Brien said. “She was playing really well.”

Even with the victories in the first two games, Nikiski coach Stacey Segura said she had an uneasy feeling in her stomach because the team wasn’t playing to its potential in its last match before the conference tourney.

“I needed them to get that message and they had the same feeling,” Segura said. “The third game was a good way to end. We had more kills and were moving better on defense.”

O’Brien had a run of seven service points for a 22-13 lead in the final game and Seward never recovered.

Perry added five aces and four blocks for the Bulldogs, while Cooney had 14 digs, Emily Hensley had 14 digs and 11 assists, and Melanie Sexton had seven kills.

“I’ll miss my seniors,” Segura said. “It’s the first group I’ve had for all four years.”

Fredrickson said Randi Tolson subbed in at outside hitter for the Seahawks and did a great job as a replacement.

Homer sweeps Seward

The host Homer volleyball team swept Seward on Saturday by scores of 25-13, 26-24 and 25-19. Homer finishes at 6-4 in the Southcentral Conference, while Seward ends up at 1-9.

Homer coach Pam Rugloski said junior Izabelle Hegge was on top of her game, while Malina Fellows provided solid hitting and McKi Needham provided solid serving.

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