Losing their star outside hitter was one big test the Soldotna volleyball squad had to deal with this year.
Another big test comes this week, when the high-powered Valley schools come to town.
Wednesday night, the Stars took care of business with a statement sweep over the Colony Knights, winning with scores 25-18, 25-19 and 28-26 over their Northern Lights Conference opponent.
“This is a big win,” said freshman sensation Itua Tuisaula. “We lost to them in the West Spiketacular, so this was big.”
Tuisaula overpowered the Knights for much of the match, knocking down balls with wild abandon to compile 10 kills, three blocks and five tips in for points.
Tuisuala said senior Judah Aley — who saw her season end with a knee injury at the West Spiketacular — talked to the team before the match and had a prewritten letter that helped fire up the Stars.
“She basically said we can’t win for one person, but we can win for the team,” Tuisaula said.
SoHi must have gotten the message. The Stars streaked out to big leads in the first two sets to win easily, and did the same in the third.
However, a rapid comeback by Colony made for intriguing drama in the end. SoHi led 19-9 at one point, forcing Colony to call timeout, and the Knights came out of the break with four straight points, forcing SoHi coach Sheila Kupferschmid to call timeout.
After reaching a 21-13 lead, SoHi then gave up 10 unanswered points to watch Colony storm to a 23-21 lead, powered by middle hitter Eve Stephens.
Finally, a kill point by Drewe Zeek stopped the bleeding for SoHi, but Colony scored again to reach set point at 24-23. A kill by Tuisuala erased it, then a net violation by Colony brought up set point for SoHi at 25-24.
Colony responded with two straight points, including a vicious kill by Mikara Klawitter, to take set point for a second time at 26-25, but the Stars weren’t done yet. A stuff block by Zeek and a point by Tuisaula set up match point for SoHi yet again, and Stars libero Shaylynn Zener ended it with a service point.
“This was the most complete match we have played this year,” Kupferschmid said. “We had a more balanced attack.”
Junior setter Cally Christianson also stepped up with 17 points, while Zener had a remarkable defensive performance to finish with 14 points. Zeek ended with seven points and five kills, and Kodi McGillivary notched seven points and three kills.
Colony was just the first NLC test of three. Today, the Stars will face Wasilla, which is undefeated in conference play this year. SoHi will finish off its three-day stretch of NLC competition with a Friday match against Palmer.
Kupferschmid praised her team’s defense and passing, and called the match Tuisaula’s “coming-out game.”