The defending Class 3A state volleyball champion Nikiski Bulldogs got their defense off to a winning start Saturday in Homer, capturing the Homer Jamboree tournament title with a 2-1 win over the host Mariners.
Nikiski won with game scores of 17-25, 25-22 and 15-10, drawing praise from head coach Stacey Segura.
“I think we’re looking really good,” Segura told the Homer News. “I think that the girls came in trying to be what they were last year, and we have to relearn how to play together.
“I mean, we have to do it every year regardless if we’re the state champions or last place.”
Soldotna took third place with a 2-0 match win over Kenai Central, winning with games of 25-20 and 25-16.
The Homer Jamboree was the lone prep sports event held on the peninsula this weekend due to a travel restriction ban by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School district that cancelled four varsity football games and the Tsalteshi Invitational cross-country meet.
Last fall, Segura coached the Bulldogs to their first state volleyball title in 18 years, but lost several starting seniors to graduation, leaving questions of how strong a team would return in 2019.
Homer had beaten Nikiski in the teams’ earlier pool play match with scores of 22-20 and 21-12, but the Bulldogs had the last laugh.
“I think it was just really fun to see them get better here in a way where we struggled to work together, and then by the end we had to figure out how to do it, and they forced themselves to,” Segura said. “I have some really strong, level-headed kids, and we have a lot of that championship experience, so when it comes down to it, I think that we have that niche for that.”
Homer and Nikiski secured their spots in the final with successful pool play. The Mariners went 4-2 while the Bulldogs went 3-3. Soldotna also went 3-3 but lost to Nikiski in pool play 23-22 and 21-15 to drop to the third seed. Kenai finished 2-4 in pool play.