The host Nikiski volleyball team closed the regular season by defeating Seward on Friday and Homer on Saturday to put itself in great position to be the No. 1 seed out of the South Division of the Southcentral Conference.
The Bulldogs defeated Seward 25-11, 25-15 and 25-7 before outlasting the Mariners 25-16, 25-20, 21-25, 14-25 and 15-9.
Both Homer and Nikiski finish 8-2 in the conference. Also, the two squads split head-to-head matchups this year. The next criteria for determining the top seed is the first match against nonconference opponents, and Nikiski’s win and Homer’s loss to Soldotna looks to be decisive, though official seeds will not be available until Monday.
Nikiski honored seniors Bethany Carstens, Kelsey Clark, Emma Wik and Hannah Young before the match. The Bulldogs then stormed to victories in the first two games.
Bulldogs coach Stacey Segura said her squad has been focusing recently on goals, doing your job and celebrating each other.
“We did a really good job of those things in the first two games,” said Segura after finishing 9-4 in nontournament play.
The Mariners got rolling in Games 3 and 4, though. Homer coach Sara Pennington said a big difference in the match, as opposed to when Homer topped the Bulldogs, was playing on Nikiksi’s floor.
“Each team was able to have more energy and confidence when they were at home,” Pennington said.
Both coaches liked the resilience their squads showed in the match. Heading into the conference tournament, Pennington said it was big that her squad was able to come back to take two games after losing the first two.
Meanwhile, Segura said a few players lost the positive attitude after Game 3. By Game 5, everybody was positive again.
“We have a lot of experience in the position of heading into a Game 5,” Segura said. “We have girls that have had three and almost four years of dealing with that situation, and it showed.”
Pennington was thrilled with the way her team played, saying Nikiski beat Homer and Homer did not lose because of its mistakes. Segura also was impressed with the Mariners.
“I definitely think Homer has gotten a lot better through this season and compared to last season,” Segura said. “Their coach has done a really good job with their defense and their block.”
Before the last point of the match, a chant went up to get Young in the match. Segura quickly got her in and Kaycee Bostic ended the match with a stuff block.
“I was so zoned in on the match,” Segura said. “I don’t want to say I forgot about her, but I’m definitely glad her friends and family reminded me.”
Clark had 18 digs and 2 aces, while Carstens had nine kills and two blocks, and Wik had 13 assists and two aces.
“I’m really proud of all the seniors and what they brought to the program,” Segura said. “We want a program that’s about respect and responsibility and hard work ethic.
“I can’t do that as a coach. The players have to bring it to the program and they’ve done a great job of that.”
Also for Nikiski, America Jeffreys had 10 digs, Kaitlyn Johnson had 14 assists, six kills and two aces, Angela Druesedow had two aces, Lillian Carstens had seven kills, and Bostic had nine kills and two blocks.
For Homer, Kelli Bishop had 24 digs and 12 kills, Karmyn Gallios had 10 kills, two blocks, 20 digs and three aces, Tonda Smuda had five kills and five blocks, Kitri Classen had 12 digs, Laura Inama had 12 digs and an ace, Marina Carroll had five kills, six blocks, 15 digs and two aces, and Brianna Hetrick had two kills, 26 assists, 15 digs and an ace.
Against Seward on Friday, Johnson had two aces, three kills and four assists, Wik had two aces and 10 assists, Bethany Carstens had six kills and three blocks, Bostic had five kills and two blocks, Tika Zimmerman had three kills, and Clark had 12 digs.