Kenai Central’s Cali Holmes attacks Soldotna in the final of the Shayna Pritchard Memorial Volleyball Tournament on Saturday at Nikiski High School in Nikiski. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Cali Holmes attacks Soldotna in the final of the Shayna Pritchard Memorial Volleyball Tournament on Saturday at Nikiski High School in Nikiski. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai defends Pritchard crown

By JEFF HELMINIAK

Peninsula Clarion

The Kenai Central volleyball team felt tired after four straight days of early season play. But the Kardinals didn’t play tired.

The Kards topped Soldotna 25-12 and 25-20 in the championship game of the Shayna Pritchard Memorial Volleyball Tournament on Saturday at Nikiski High School. The tournament is held in honor of Pritchard, a 2007 Nikiski graduate who was killed in a car crash in Colorado in June 2007.

The championship matched up the last two champions of the tournament, with Kenai having won in 2020 and Soldotna holding the 2019 title.

Kenai, which has not lost a set this season, played Sitka on Wednesday and Bethel on Thursday before heading to the two-day tourney in Nikiski.

“We’ve had four days of straight play,” Kenai coach Tracie Beck said. “I was surely worried. Like, we’re tired. We’re tired. They’re sore, after four days this early in the season.

“So that was really where the mental toughness piece stepped up.”

After taking a 9-1 lead in the first set against the Stars and cruising to the win, the Kards encountered more trouble in the second game.

The Stars got up by as much as 11-3 on a service winner by Chloe Armstrong before Kenai began to work its way back into the game.

“Absolutely nothing was going right,” Beck said.

Soldotna led 19-14 when Genesis Trevino collected a kill. Emma Beck then served out 10 straight points for a 24-19 advantage.

As Kenai went on the decisive run, the increasing energy of the Kards’ celebration between points made it hard to believe the team was tired.

“Once they just plucked away at those points, you could tell the celebration was getting a little bit bigger and a little bit bigger,” Beck said. “At the end, they were definitely celebrating every point, which they should.

“After that battle back, they should be very proud of themselves.”

Andie Galloway, Valerie Villegas and Jorgi Phillips were on the all-tournament team for the Kards.

Beck said there were a number of other players on her team deserving of the honor.

“That’s a great thing,” Beck said. “I would never trade that for the world — making the coaches have to make hard choices.”

In earlier bracket play, Soldotna started the day with a 25-23 and 25-21 victory over Bethel, while Nikiski topped Kotzebue 25-17 and 25-21 in the first round.

Bethel and Kotzebue would engage in an epic battle for fifth place, with Kotzebue winning 25-17, 18-25 and 21-19.

Kenai topped Nikiski in the semifinals 25-16 and 25-17, while Soldotna edged Sitka 19-25, 25-17 and 16-14.

Sitka would go on to defeat Nikiski for third place, 25-20 and 25-16.

The most valuable player of the tournament was Sitka’s Zaeda Dumag. Also on the all-tournament team were Chloe Armstrong of Soldotna, Ava Lieb of Bethel, Alena Zener of Soldotna, Chloe Morrison of Sitka, Jaycee Tauriainen of Nikiski and Jessie Christner of Sitka.

The Shayna Marie Pritchard Award went to Maggie Grenier of Nikiski. Dylan Hooper, the Nikiski athletic director, said nothing ever came easy to Pritchard, but she succeeded with hard work that was an inspiration to others. The award recognizes the player with those qualities.

In Friday’s matches, Soldotna defeated Kotzebue 25-9 and 25-23, Sitka defeated Bethel 25-19 and 25-23, Kenai defeated Kotzebue 25-9 and 25-3, Nikiski defeated Bethel 25-16 and 25-11, Kenai defeated Soldotna 25-23 and 25-15, and Sitka defeated Nikiski 25-17 and 25-7.

Homer 3, Seward 2

The visiting Mariners topped the Seahawks 14-25, 25-23, 22-25, 28-26 and 15-12.

Soldotna’s Katelyn Morrison attacks Kenai Central in the final of the Shayna Pritchard Memorial Volleyball Tournament on Saturday at Nikiski High School in Nikiski. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Katelyn Morrison attacks Kenai Central in the final of the Shayna Pritchard Memorial Volleyball Tournament on Saturday at Nikiski High School in Nikiski. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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