The Nikiski volleyball team commanded the floor Friday night in a 3-0 Southcentral Conference victory over Anchorage Christian Schools, winning with game scores of 25-20, 25-20 and 25-13.
After a 3-1 win Saturday over Grace Christian to notch the weekend sweep, the Bulldogs are now 4-0 in conference play this year, something that senior middle hitter Kaycee Bostic feels is perfect for the team at this point in the season.
“We’re getting there,” Bostic said. “It was a struggle at first, but we’re starting to come together as a team.”
Bostic led the Bulldogs with 13 kills against the Lions, along with seven digs on defense. Fellow senior Tika Zimmerman joined her with five kills and junior Lillian Carstens helped at the net with four blocks.
With an Anchorage school like ACS coming into the building, Nikiski needed a solid night to kick-start their second half of the 2019 season, and they got it despite a sleepy start, according to head coach Stacey Segura.
“I felt like it was slow on our side,” Segura said. “However, they were grinding through it and getting through it as a team, and being very consistent.”
Segura said the team’s play at last weekend’s West Spiketacular, where Nikiski finished midpack among the 18-team field, was paramount in pointing the Bulldogs in the right direction for an October run that will ultimately lead into the high school postseason in November.
“It wasn’t our best play, but we had a lot of girls on the floor who haven’t seen that speed before,” Segura said. “I think that’s where our downfall was … but I never try to let those tournaments define who we are, good or bad.”
As the defending Class 3A state champions, Bostic said she often feels the heat of the competition on the Bulldogs, but added she doesn’t let that pressure bother her.
“I feel like teams definitely put their best effort when they play us,” Bostic said. “But we don’t let it faze us, we go on like it’s just another game.”
Bostic’s powerful game as a middle hitter kept the ACS defense off kilter all night, and she received help from senior teammate Kaitlyn Johnson, who set up 20 assists and had seven digs to go with three aces. Senior libero America Jeffreys also played a crucial role with 13 digs.
Another big help the Bulldogs received was the service game of Japanese exchange student Kotori Miyoshi, who inundated ACS with an array of pinpoint serves, finishing with three aces on the night. Segura said Miyoshi has an ability to not only put the ball where she wants, but fool the other team with movement on her serve.
“Coming off the bench cold and not playing, and to serve like that,” Segura said. “It’s really cool. It’s fun to have her.”
The balanced team approach helped offset the ACS attack, which was led by senior hitters Morgan Merriner and Kira Keller, and senior setters Anna Boswell and Ashton Ealum.
A close opening game eventually opened up and Nikiski led by 16-11 before ACS rallied back to get within one at 21-20. The Bulldogs pulled out the win with four straight points, including a pair of kill points by Bostic, to take a 1-0 match lead.
ACS started fast in Game 2 and led 7-4, but Bostic’s net presence and Miyoshi’s service game brought Nikiski back with a 13-3 run, and the Lions couldn’t recover fast enough, although they did score six straight late in the game.
Nikiski finished off the Lions in the third and final set, streaking out to a 10-0 lead and never looking back en route to the win. Bostic had a few hitting points and Johnson kicked in a handful of service points to help Nikiski out to the big early lead.
“(We’re) pretty confident, we’re staying well as a team, working together and worrying about each other, not the other team,” Bostic said. “That’s our strength.”
Saturday against Grace Christian, Nikiski won with scores of 25-16, 21-25, 25-20 and 25-10.
Bostic led the team with 14 kills, while Johnson had seven and Savannah Ley added five. Carstens ended with eight blocks, while Johnson notched eight aces and Rosalie Anderson had four.