In a season that has been pockmarked with five-set thrillers, the Nikiski volleyball team found itself in a familiar place Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs pushed through to win a pair of hard-earned sets against Southcentral Conference volleyball opponent Homer before finishing it off with a flourish, claiming a 3-1 win over the Mariners at Nikiski High School. Nikiski won with scores of 25-23, 17-25, 28-26 and 25-7.
In the first game, Nikiski came back from trailing 23-20 to score the last five points in the win. In the second set, Nikiski held set point at 24-21, but Homer scored four unanswered points to set up a set point at 25-24. But the Bulldogs survived two Homer set points and notched three straight points to win it at 28-26.
“We got better at carrying more energy from one set to the next,” said Nikiski coach Stacey Segura. “The way we ended the third, we were able to continue it to the fourth game.”
After grinding out two set wins out of three, the Bulldogs ended the night with a flourish in the fourth and final set. Nikiski’s front line appeared to be everywhere at once, tipping balls onto Homer’s court and catching the Mariners’ back line off guard to rack up the kill points.
“They were covering our hitters and blockers well,” said Homer coach Kristie Mastre.
In the final set, Nikiski jumped out to a 5-1 lead, then extended it to 10-3, before rattling off a 10-1 run to stake out a 20-4 lead with Melanie Sexton getting a few shots to the floor, forcing the Mariners to call timeout.
Sexton finished with 28 digs and seven kills to lead Nikiski.
Not in Tuesday’s lineup, however, was senior middle hitter Ayla Pitt, who was held out after suffering an ankle sprain over the weekend.
With Pitt out of the picture, Segura had to turn to other players to pick up the slack, including senior Dessy Napoka.
“She’s been sitting back on defense this year, and she had a nice passing game tonight,” Segura said.
Napoka finished with 16 digs against Homer.
Kelsey Clark notched 27 digs for Nikiski, Emma Wik had 12 assists, Kaitlyn Johnson had 16 assists and five aces, Jamie Yerkes finished with six serving aces and five kills, and Brianna Vollertsen had six kills.
With the win, Nikiski jumped to 7-2 in conference play and 7-4 overall, while Homer dropped to 2-6 in conference.
Soldotna 3, Seward 0
The Stars went on the road Tuesday night and picked up a nonconference victory over Seward. SoHi won with scores of 25-20, 25-23 and 25-16.
Soldotna improved to 8-1 overall this year with the win, while Seward dropped to 6-4 overall. The Seahawks remain 6-3 in Southcentral Conference play.
Leading the charge Tuesday was Drewe Zeek with four kills and eight service points, including a run of service points that left Seward decimated. Also for SoHi, Taylor Earll notched four serve points, Kodi McGillivray had four kills, Itua Tuisaula notched four kills, Emily Pieh finished with three kills and libero Shaylyn Zener provided three service points.
“We didn’t have all our players there tonight,” said SoHi coach Sheila Kupferschmid. “We had to throw in some different rotations.”
Kupferschmid added that the game provided time to experiment with a changed lineup in preparation for a trio of Northern Lights Conference matchups against Colony, Wasilla and Palmer at home next week.