The Nikiski volleyball team ended their season Saturday fourth in the state.
The team went out 28-26, 23-25, 25-16 and 25-19 against Grace Christian in the final four of the Class 3A state tournament at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.
“I thought that was a great game to go out on,” said coach Stacey Segura. “They played really well.”
Segura added that it was great to see the team take fourth at state.
Despite losing a first-round match against Mt. Edgecumbe, the top seed from Southeast, on Thursday, the Bulldogs won subsequent matches against Barrow and Homer, putting them in the final four Saturday morning. Mt. Edgecumbe went on to win the Class 3A title with a thrilling 33-31 triumph over Monroe Catholic in the if-necessary match.
Nikiski faced Anchorage’s Grace several times this year, losing each time around.
In the Southcentral Conference tournament, the Bulldogs kept up with the Grizzlies for the first two games, but let them get away after that, Segura said.
This time, Segura said the team played strong throughout the whole match and had a better attitude throughout.
Senior Rachel Thompson said the team tried to match Grace throughout the games.
“Our goal was always to play point for point,” she said.
The team accomplished that goal, staying within a few points of Grace for most of the morning, and rallying for five points in a row in an attempt to stop Grace from winning its final game.
During the first set, Nikiski stayed just behind Grace, pulling ahead to 26-25 before losing 28-26. During the second set, the team started ahead of Grace and maintained that position most of the set to win. Grace pulled further ahead during the third set, but when they tried to repeat that in the fourth, Nikiski kept the Grizzlies closer.
Thompson had 22 assists, three aces and eight digs. Fellow senior Laura Hufford had 30 digs. Sophomore Brianna Vollertsen had eight kills and five aces. Junior Lauren O’Brien had seven kills. Junior Zykiah Cooney had 10 digs. Sophomore Ayla Pitt had 10 kills and five blocks. Freshman Melanie Sexton had three blocks.
Thompson said it felt “very good” to end the season at state, despite the loss. She and fellow senior Laura Hufford said it was a roller-coaster season, but the team was close.
“It was up and down a lot,” Hufford said, noting that her favorite part was when the team played hard at the conference championship and came together.
The team will lose two strong players in its seniors, but much of the team could return next year, Segura said, including the four current juniors.
Early in the season, it was unclear if some of the team would play again after the season ended.
“I think the fact that they got a taste of the state championship tournament … they’ll be back,” Segura said.
Nikiski won the 3A sportsmanship award, while Homer took the academic award with a 3.84 grade-point average, with 10 of 12 girls having a 4.0.