Nikiski senior middle blocker Ayla Pitt had 20 kills, eight aces and two blocks in leading the Bulldogs to a 3-2 Southcentral Conference volleyball victory over Seward on Friday in Nikiski.
The homecoming-weekend event matched two of the top squads in the conference, and left Nikiski at 5-2 overall and 4-1 in the league, and Seward at 5-3 overall and 5-2 in the league. The scores were 25-17, 23-25, 25-20, 23-25 and 15-7.
“It was a huge match,” Nikiski coach Stacey Segura said. “We don’t want to be in Grace’s side of the bracket.”
Grace Christian currently leads the conference and is one of two teams, along with nonconference foe Soldotna, to beat the Bulldogs in five games this season. Friday is the first time Nikiski won a five-gamer.
“It gives us a big boost in confidence,” Pitt said. “The whole team stayed really composed.”
Segura said Pitt is not normally one of her squad’s toughest servers, but Pitt’s serve gave the Seahawks fits Friday, and was a crucial difference in the fifth game. Pitt served out seven straight points to give Nikiski an 11-1 lead from which Seward could not recover.
“I served deep and then I served short,” Pitt said. “I also served left and right randomly.”
There was nothing random about the way Pitt racked up so many kills. With her quick arm swing, she was able to get on top of the ball and drive it to the floor just 10 feet from the net. Seward coach Jamie Frederickson said her defense never made the adjustment.
“She was playing phenomenally,” Segura said of Pitt. “Seward wasn’t stopping her and once I saw that, I told the setters to keep feeding her the ball.”
After Nikiski broke away late for a 25-17 victory in the first game, Seward led 23-16 in the second game on a kill by Maggie Adkins, who also had four blocks. But the Bulldogs’ Kelsey Clark, who had 24 digs and four races, served out five straight points to draw Nikiski within 23-22.
A Nikiski hitting error got the Seahawks to 24-22, then Riley Von Borstel, who had three kills, answered a Pitt kill for a 25-23 victory.
Game 3 once again saw Pitt provide a crucial edge, as she served out six straight points to give Nikiski a 20-15 edge that would prove to be the difference in the 25-20 victory.
In Game 4, it was Von Borstel once again coming through in the clutch, ending the game with a kill and then two tip kills for a 25-23 victory.
Frederickson said her team had a lot of tip kills for points, but was not attacking the ball hard. Many long rallies would end with either a Nikiski kill or a Nikiski mistake.
“We didn’t go out and attack the ball a whole lot,” she said. “They’ve been better about attacking this season, but maybe it was because they knew so much was on the line with every point.”
Segura also saw the big match bring out some uncharacteristic mistakes by her team. Nikiski normally misses two or three serves in a match, but missed 12 on Friday. After passing hard-serving Soldotna well on Tuesday, the Bulldogs struggled with serve-receive early against Seward.
“We were kind of funky with our passing,” Segura said. “I don’t know if it was from overconfidence after Soldotna or what.”
Melanie Sexton added 34 digs for the Bulldogs, while Emma Wik had 10 assists, Kaitlyn Johnson had 18 assists, Jamie Yerkes had five kills, Brianna Vollertson had eight kills and Maddy Williams had two blocks.