Palmer volleyball comes back to topple Kenai

The host Kenai Central volleyball team got a lot of little victories Wednesday, but it was Palmer that came away with a big win.

The Moose came back from a 20-14 deficit in Game 4 to force a Game 5, then saved two match points in Game 5 for a 17-25, 25-10, 16-25, 25-23, 18-16 victory.

Palmer moves to 2-0 in the Northern Lights Conference and 2-1 overall, while the Kards drop to 0-3 in the league and 2-3 overall.

Kenai coach Tracie Beck said the match showed how far her squad has come, but also the specific ways her team needs to improve.

“In my time here, we’ve never taken a game off of Palmer and Palmer has never had to take a timeout for strategy purposes,” said Beck, in her third year as varsity coach. “Both those things happened tonight.”

Beck also liked the way her team kept fighting back in the back-and-forth affair.

“We’ve never kept fighting back like that,” she said. “When the other team comes back at us like that, we usually stay down.”

Palmer coach Steve Reynolds said his squad also got a lot out of the contest.

“As a coach, I love playing five-game matches,” Reynolds said. “I’m competitive and I like to win them, but they are very valuable even if you lose.”

Abby Beck, who had 17 digs, 15 assists, seven kills and three aces, served out four straight points early in Game 1 for a 5-1 lead. Palmer never recovered.

“I have some issues with the first game,” Reynolds said. “We played like a team that had been on the bus all day.”

But Mariah McNamara, who had a monster night with 19 kills, got the Moose going in Game 2 by serving out the first eight points to spark the victory.

“She’s our leader,” Reynolds said of McNamara, who is in her third year of varsity play. “She leads with her game and she’s our emotional leader.”

But the Kards fought right back in Game 3, with Sierra Hall, who had five kills, serving to a 5-0 lead. Palmer cut the gap to 12-11, but three service points from Alexis Baker pushed Kenai to an 18-13 lead and eventual victory.

In the fourth game, the Kards were primed for a victory when Alli Steinbeck put down a kill for a 20-14 lead, but Reynolds called timeout and the Moose began to come back, closing with eight of the final nine points of the game.

“We tend to be fighters, traditionally, like that,” Reynolds said. “We don’t tend to just crumple up. We’ll get beat, but we’ll get beat fair and square.”

In Game 5, neither team led by more than three points. Kenai had match point at 14-13, but a hitting error tied the game up.

The Kards also had match point at 15-14, but put the serve out.

Kenai saved one match point, but McNamara ended the match with a stuff block.

“We had them in Game 4 and we had them in Game 5, we just didn’t finish,” Beck said. “They were swinging to win and we were putting the ball back in play. That’s not good enough at this level.”

Beck said the experience can serve as a springboard to better things.

“There’s still room to grow,” Beck said. “Games like this show how close we are.

“We look forward to practice and working on finishing games like this.”

Kiana Harding had eight kills for Kenai, while Amber Walters had 16 assists and Jamie Bagley had 26 digs.

For Palmer, Carly Venzke had 25 digs, Allie McPheters had 16 assists and Holly Corbin had a pair of aces.

Kenai hosts Colony today at 5:30 p.m., while Palmer travels to play Soldotna at 6 p.m.

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