A strong start to the 2015 volleyball season had the Soldotna Stars ready for their Northern Lights Conference opener with Kodiak, a perennial region opponent that has given SoHi fits in recent years.
Once again, however, the Bears finished with the upper hand with a razor-sharp 3-2 win over SoHi, winning with scores of 25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 22-25 and 15-5 Friday night at Soldotna High.
Kodiak improved to 2-0 with the win, while SoHi entered the conference picture at 0-1. The two teams face off again Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
Kodiak coach Amy Willis said the game 5 finale proved to her that her team is not one to crack under pressure. After giving up the first point on a powerful kill shot from SoHi senior Makenna Rosin, Kodiak answered with three straight points.
Later in the game, after the Stars scored two our of three points to close the gap to 6-4, Kodiak burst forth with a 9-1 streak with help from the powerful left arm of senior outside hitter Kalameli Matautia, who made her presence known at the front of the net. The Bears scored the final six points to take the game and the match.
“I think my kids are pretty strong-minded, they don’t fall apart when it gets dicey,” Willis said.
Matautia ended the game with 23 kills and four blocks, while junior setter Tracy Gatter had 41 total assists. Also, junior libero Mikayla Lirette had 24 digs and senior middle Richella Walker notched 12 kills.
Willis said senior outside hitter Mica Riina suffered a sprained ankle Thursday against Kenai, which forced her to make a few adjustments to her lineup.
“We had to move some people around and I finally needed to go back to where we were strongest,” Willis said. “We left her in there, let her nurse her ankle a little bit, and we ran our offense a little differently, but everyone else was flowing so well in our offense, it didn’t matter.”
Last year, the Bears went 7-3 in conference play and were the ones to knock SoHi out of the region tournament on the first day. Willis added that as stressful as it is keeping a team competing at a high level to beat a similarly-talented squad like SoHi, she enjoys the close competition with Soldotna coach Sheila Kupferschmid.
“Sheila runs a really great program,” Willis said. “She’s just got talent at every level, and it’s impressive.”
Junior outside hitter Judah Aley led the SoHi attack with eight kills, senior middles Sylvia Tuisaula and McKenna Rosin had six kills apiece, and sophomore libero Shaylynn Zener provided 16 digs.
But the mistakes and miscommunications that occasionally popped up for SoHi eventually became too much to overcome.
After dropping a close opening game by a mere two points, SoHi battle back in the second to tie the match at one apiece, although it did not come easy. The Stars opened up a 10-6 lead with help from a few Tuisaula points at the front of the net. From there, SoHi managed to halt any Kodiak momentum with solid defensive play.
In the third game, Kodiak jumped out to a 13-8 lead before Soldotna coach Kupferschmid called a timeout to reorganize her troops.
Kodiak continued to charge and pushed the lead up to 23-17 at one point. However, SoHi reeled off six straight points — several of them on Kodiak shots going astray — to tie the game at 23-all before Willis was the one to call timeout.
The 60 second break seemed to work, as Kodiak finished off the game win with two quick points, the last coming on a long pass that clipped the netting and dropped down to end SoHi’s charge.
In a case of deja vu, Kodiak found itself leading 13-8 again in the fourth game when Kupferschmid called timeout. Her words to the Stars worked, as SoHi went on a 10-2 tear to grab an 18-15 lead.
SoHi extended the lead to 23-19, then suffered a few anxious moments before ensnaring the 25-22 win to force a fifth, 15-point, game.
In the decider, Matautia made her mark with three crucial kills in the late going that helped Kodiak get the win.
Nikiski 3, Houston 2
One day after suffering a head-scratching 3-0 loss to Grace Christian, the Bulldogs got back on the right track Friday night with a nail biting win over Houston, winning with scores of 21-25, 25-11, 21-25, 25-12 and 15-9.
After giving up a late lead in game 1 of Thursday night’s Southcentral Conference bout with Grace, Nikiski dropped the last two games by a combined score of 50-20.
Friday proved to be a fresh start for the Bulldogs.
“We were much better, it was drastically different from last night,” said Nikiski coach Stacey Segura.
Nikiski moved to 1-1 in conference play and 2-1 overall.
Melanie Sexton led Nikiski with 10 aces, all on serving, and teammate Ayla Pitt had 10 kills and four blocks. Emily Hensley provided 22 assists, Lauren O’Brien had 20 digs, Brianna Vollertson recorded six aces, and Bethany Carstens and Brittany Perry both added seven kills.
“My team had a choice to either make (Thursday) a positive and use it to make themselves better or dig themselves in a hole,” Segura said. “They definitely turned it around, I was really surprised at the difference.”
Nikiski will face ACS Saturday at 2 p.m.
The Mariners dropped a Southcentral Conference matchup to Grace Christian Friday night in Homer.
The Grizzlies notched the three-game sweep with scores of 25-14, 25-17 and 25-10.