Senior night for the Soldotna volleyball team took on added meaning Friday night following the tragic loss of a fellow student.
The Stars defeated peninsula rivals Kenai Central 3-1 in a nonconference game, winning with scores of 25-16, 23-25, 25-14 and 25-16.
SoHi emerged victorious less than 48 hours after learning of the death of Soldotna senior Macie Schroeder-Dalebout, 17, who was killed in a single-car rollover Thursday morning on the Sterling Highway. Schroeder-Dalebout was a manager for the basketball and wrestling teams, and was friends with many student athletes, including seniors Bailey Armstrong and Holleigh Jaime, who said Friday night’s victory was dedicated to their fallen friend.
“I definitely think this win was for Macie,” Armstrong said. “I think we had to think of it, not as she’s gone, but let’s play for Macie. Let’s do it for her.”
Hours after hearing the news Thursday, SoHi had to prepare for a Northern Lights Conference contest with the Colony Knights. The Stars ended up losing a close, competitive game in four sets, and Armstrong said the team desperately wanted to win Friday.
“Last night was pretty tough, it was pretty emotional,” Armstrong said. “But I felt the win against Kenai definitely helped us.”
“We did what we could,” added Jaime. “It was a rough night, a rough day. It was sad for our whole entire community.”
Prior to Friday’s match, there were plenty of hugs going around the SoHi team, and SoHi head coach Luke Baumer stepped up to deliver his typical rendition of the national anthem. Baumer praised his team’s ability to perform under the emotional circumstances.
“We battled through the emotions of Macie last night, and we battled again with the emotions still fresh on senior night,” he said. “That was unusual for us. We all know senior night’s always a really tough one for the girls to get motivated for, and then everyone was really sad … the fact that we were able to pull away with the win tonight was really awesome. I was proud of them.”
In addition to Jaime and Armstrong, the Stars celebrated seniors Ituau Tuisaula, Serena Foglia, Kylie Ness, Casey Earll and Trayce Lyon.
Jaime had a strong serving night, tallying seven aces to go with six digs on defense. The SoHi offense was powered by Tuisaula with 10 kills, Armstrong with seven kills, Lyon with seven kills and three blocks, and Serena Foglia with three blocks. Sierra Kuntz set it all up with 27 assists on the night.
SoHi got off to a blazing start with a bevy of service points from Tuisaula, Armstrong and Kuntz in the first set, forcing Kenai to call timeout down 13-3. That start carried the Stars to a dominant set win and 1-0 match lead.
The Kardinals returned with a different attitude in Game 2, racing out to a 10-4 lead with a handful of kill points from Bethany Morris and Abby Every. The hitting duo helped keep the Kards close throughout the final three sets.
An eight-point run boosted Kenai’s lead to 15-4 at one point in the second set, but SoHi continued pressing the front line and forced the Kards into mistakes that brought SoHi back into the game. The Stars closed to 21-18 before Kenai called timeout, then a pair of points and a service point by Jaime tied it up at 23-all.
Kenai finished the set with points won by SoHi outs to tie the match at 1-all.
Tuisaula got the third set off to a quick start with a few serve points that got SoHi out to a 12-4 lead, and the Stars were able to hang on from there to take a 2-1 match lead.
SoHi used a 5-0 run in the fourth set to grab a 13-4 lead, then expanded their lead to 20-10 with a six-point swing as the front line kept Kenai at bay.
Colony 3, Soldotna 2
The host Stars ended an emotionally draining weekend with a 19-25, 25-16, 15-25, 25-21 and 15-11 loss to the Knights in Northern Lights Conference play.
Soldotna finishes up NLC play at 5-3, and also falls to 12-3 overall in nontournament play.
Baumer said what really stood out about the weekend is the resilience of his team and the support shown by the Colony and Soldotna volleyball programs.
Thursday, Colony brought a dozen yellow roses and gave one of them to every Soldotna player after the match. The Kardinals also brought flowers and candles to Friday’s match.
“I’m so grateful to the Colony head coach and Tracie Beck,” Baumer said. “They were so generous and kind to our girls and showed them a lot of support.”
Baumer said the Knights are a very good team and the Stars did well to stick with them Thursday and Saturday.
“I told them they have to remain together on the court and make sure they were together on every point, win or lose,” Baumer said. “It’s a huge positive that they played as well as they did.”
Ituau Tuisaula paced the Stars with 24 kills, while Bailey Armstrong and Serena Foglia each had nine kills. Sierra Kuntz had 42 assists, while Holleigh Jaime had nine digs and Trayce Lyon had four blocks.
Nikiski 3, Homer 1
The host Bulldogs notched a key Southcentral Conference victory over the Mariners on Saturday on senior night for Nikiski.
The scores were 12-25, 25-15, 25-19 and 27-25. Nikiski moves to 6-1 in the conference and 6-4 overall. Homer is 5-2 in the conference.
America Jeffreys, Elora Reichert, Kaitlyn Johnson, Angela Druesedow, Kaycee Bostic, Tika Zimmerman, Mady Weeks and manager Cecily Quiner were honored before the match for the Bulldogs.
The team then fell into a big hole in losing the first game.
“During that first game, we were a little on the emotional side,” Nikiski head coach Stacey Segura said.
But the coach said her team rebounded quickly.
“I was a little nervous, but I knew the girls really wanted to play well for senior night to prove they could beat Homer,” Segura said.
As it turned out, it was a great way for a group that owns a state championship to exit their home floor.
“They’re great kids with a strong mind-set and they work really well together,” Segura said. “They’ve worked really well with the younger girls. They’re definitely going to be missed.”
Jeffreys had 30 digs, while Druesedow added 13 and Reichert had 12. Druesedow also had nine assists, while Kaitlyn Johnson had 19 assists. In the kills department, Lillian Carstens had nine, Kaycee Bostic had eight and Johnson had five. Carstens also had nine blocks, while Johnson had six aces.
Colony 3, Nikiski 0
The Bulldogs lost Friday night to the Knights in nonconference play with scores of 25-20, 25-16 and 25-16.
Nikiski dropped to 5-4 overall outside of tournament play with the loss, and head coach Stacey Segura attributed inconsistent play to the team’s downfall against the Class 4A Knights.
“We played well, however there (were) just a few too many mistakes,” Segura said. “We were getting up to speed after (Friday against Seward).”
Nikiski was powered by Kaycee Bostic with five kills and three blocks, and Lillian Carstens peppered in five kills and two blocks as well. Senior libero America Jeffreys kept the Bulldogs defense afloat with 13 digs while Kaitlyn Johnson recorded 12 digs to go with seven assists and four kills, and Rosalie Anderson and Angela Druesedow tallied eight digs apiece.
Birchwood Christian 3, Cook Inlet Academy 0
Visiting Birchwood Christian swept Cook Inlet Academy on Friday by scores of 25-12, 25-21 and 25-21.
Cordova 3, Cook Inlet Academy 0
Visiting Cordova swept Cook Inlet Academy on Saturday by scores of 25-5, 25-15 and 25-2.
Homer 3, Seward 0