Nikiski duo Rylee Jackson (10) and Jamie Yerkes (9) block a shot from Soldotna’s Ella Stenga, Tuesday at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski duo Rylee Jackson (10) and Jamie Yerkes (9) block a shot from Soldotna’s Ella Stenga, Tuesday at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski survives in 5 sets over SoHi

Dylan Hooper’s beard and the Nikiski volleyball team held strong when it counted.

On a senior night when Hooper held enough weight from his beard to set a world record once it is certified by Guinness, the Bulldogs outlasted the Stars in five games to move to 10-0 on the season.

“We were saying in the locker room, that had to be one of the best senior nights ever — breaking a world record and beating SoHi,” said Nikiski senior Melanie Sexton, who had five kills, three blocks and 19 digs in her first full game since injuring her ankle on Sept. 25.

The scores of the roller-coaster affair were 26-24, 22-25, 25-22, 11-25 and 15-12.

“Soldotna is a great team,” Nikiski coach Stacey Segura said. “To be the only undefeated team on the peninsula is awesome and a privilege.

“I don’t think this group will take that lightly.”

The Stars (7-3 overall) are a Class 4A squad, while the Bulldogs were runner-up at the Class 3A state tournament last year.

Nikiski had defeated Soldotna 27-26 in a pool play game at the West Spiketacular on Sept. 25, so there was little surprise when Game 5 was knotted at 11 and the evening basically came down to a mini-game to four.

Foreign exchange student Elisa Fardin, who had five aces and 18 digs, had a service winner to tie the game at 11, and served out three more points for a 14-11 lead.

Fardin, who also misses her share of serves, also had been pivotal in Game 1, taking the service line with the Bulldogs down 20-23 and serving out three points to tie that game.

“She did a fantastic job,” Segura said. “Her serve was consistent when it had to be.”

While Bethany Carstens (nine kills, two blocks) and Kaitlyn Johnson (16 assists, three aces) combined on a block to make it 12-11, Nikiski’s last three points came on Soldotna hitting errors.

“The last four points, we didn’t execute,” Soldotna coach Sheila Kupferschmid said. “We did that to ourselves.”

While the Bulldogs are a battle-tested group that honored five varsity seniors Tuesday, Soldotna has just three seniors.

That’s why Kupferschmid said the match in front of the boisterous Nikiski crowd was a great experience.

“I’ve got young kids,” she said. “They haven’t been in many five-setters with pressure.”

After all the pregame excitement, Nikiski started slow but finally pulled even in that first game on the service run by Fardin.

But a kill by Shaylynn Zener, who had 21 service points, 20 digs and five kills, set the Stars up with match point.

A four-touch violation tied it at 24, then a winner by Sexton gave Nikiski game point. Johnson’s service winner put the Bulldogs up 1-0.

In the second game, it was the Stars pulling out a tight one. With SoHi clinging to a 23-22 lead, Bailey Leach, who had nine kills and three blocks, had a kill and Kodi McGillivray, who had 20 service points, six kills and four digs, had a service winner to tie the match at one game apiece.

Then the two teams traded slow starts that cost them games. In Game 3, Kelsey Clark, who had 30 digs and three aces, served out six points for a 7-1 lead and SoHi never fully recovered.

In Game 4, Cally Christianson, who had 19 service points, 42 assists, seven digs, a kill and a block, served out five points for a 7-1 lead.

The Stars, especially Aliann Schmidt and her match totals of 21 kills and 12 blocks, then found holes in the Nikiski defense and rolled to a 25-11 win.

“Game 4 — that wasn’t who we are,” Sexton said. “Game 5 was who we are. We’re able to win when it counts.”

Schmidt was having a ton of success tipping, so Segura dropped the outside hitter off the block and had the outside hitter pick up tips in Game 5.

Schmidt got off to a hot start in Game 5, with two kills and two blocks for a 6-4 lead, but the Bulldogs were able to contain her when she was in the front row for the game’s final points.

Ella Stenga had 11 service points, 20 digs, 10 kills, six blocks and three assists for Soldotna, while Paulyne Catacutan had 11 digs and Holleigh Jaime had 23 digs and 10 service points.

For Nikiski, Jamie Yerkes had seven kills and Emilee Tiner added four kills.

The seniors honored were Yerkes, Sexton, Rylee Jackson, Emilee Tiner, Ashlee Tiner, Deidra Lamping, Hailey Peterson, Chloe Grogan and Paige Shield.

“These seniors were definitely the turning point in the program as far as the attitude they bring to practice every day,” Segura said.

Soldotna will host Nikiski on Oct. 17 in a match that will raise funds for the Breast Cancer Fund of the Central Peninsula Health Foundation.

Soldotna’s Ella Stenga and Bailey Leach (12) put up a block against Nikiski’s Jamie Yerkes (9) Tuesday at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Ella Stenga and Bailey Leach (12) put up a block against Nikiski’s Jamie Yerkes (9) Tuesday at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

More in Sports

Anchorage's Will Ross rides to victory in the Soggy Bottom 100 on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. (Photo provided by Angela DiBeradino)
Anchorage’s Ross gets record back in Soggy Bottom 100

Anchorage’s Will Ross now has Alaska’s most coveted endurance mountain biking record.… Continue reading

Nick Varney
Reeling ‘Em In: Hints from Nick on catchin’ cohos

Silvers loathe direct sunlight and are spooked by shadows

tease
Hogue, Aldridge win Soldotna Cycle Series 5

Dylan Hogue and Morgan Aldridge picked up victories at the fifth Soldotna… Continue reading

Take a number. The "patients" wait briefly in the trap box before being seen and released upstream to continue their migration. (Photo by Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)
Refuge Notebook: Anatomy of a fish weir — Keeping a finger on the pulse of Alaska’s salmon runs

During a routine physical exam, your doctor checks your vitals: Weight, heart… Continue reading

Mt. Redoubt rises above Cook Inlet and the Anchor River drainage as fireweed is in bloom, as seen from Diamond Ridge Road on Friday, July 22, 2022, near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Out of the Office: Take the long way around

“Slow Down. What’s the hurry?” reads an inscription on the Reuben Call… Continue reading

tease
Ulman, Davis win final Salmon Run Series race of season

Sean Ulman and Kristin Davis won the fifth and final Salmon Run… Continue reading

Morgan Aldridge leads riders down a hill at the start of Week 3 of the Soldotna Cycle Series on Thursday, July 18, 2019, at Tsalteshi Trails. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Aldridge, Iannaccone excel at Moose Nugget Triathlon

Sterling’s Morgan Aldridge and Kenai’s Jon Iannaccone both had notable performances Sunday… Continue reading

tease
Dubovsky, Raney win Res Pass Ultras

Elizabeth Dubovsky and Miles Raney won the Resurrection Pass Ultra Races on… Continue reading

Seward's Erik Johnson finishes the men's Mount Marathon Race in Seward, Alaska, on Monday, July 4, 2022. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Deal, Hecht, Johnson put in strong performances at Alyeska Cirque Series

Taylor Deal, Galen Hecht and Erik Johnson led those with Kenai Peninsula… Continue reading

Most Read