Soldotna teammates Carsen Brown (left) and Bailey Leach combine to put a block on Anchorage Christian’s Morgan Merriner (8) Friday night at the Soldotna Prep gym. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna teammates Carsen Brown (left) and Bailey Leach combine to put a block on Anchorage Christian’s Morgan Merriner (8) Friday night at the Soldotna Prep gym. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

SoHi volleyball defeats ACS

The first set Friday night in the Soldotna Prep gym went easily enough for the Stars volleyball team.

The second was much rougher, but it provided a lesson for SoHi not to fall into a trap.

“I put them in a different position,” said SoHi head coach Sheila Kupferschmid. “It took a mental and focus adjustment.”

The Stars won the nonconference match 3-1 with scores of 25-8, 17-25, 25-22 and 25-13. Soldotna competes at the Class 4A level while ACS is a Class 3A program.

The win pushes SoHi to 8-1 overall this year as the Stars continued their hot streak thanks to a high-energy offense. Ituau Tuisaula led the way with 10 kills, while junior Bailey Leach racked up eight kills to go with two blocks.

Leach said the good chemistry of the team in the earlier weeks of the season helped lead the Stars back after losing the second set to ACS.

“We’ve connected a lot more this year,” Leach said. “So once we started to click, we kept coming.”

Leach battered the Lions defense with shots from the middle of the net, while Tuisuala blasted ACS from an outside position that she has made her own in recent games. Aliann Schmidt added seven kills of her own from the middle. Senior Carsen Brown set up much of the power with 33 assists on the night.

The Lions had an answer of their own with middle hitter Morgan Merriner, a junior who pulled out some big points for ACS.

After a dominant win in the first set, SoHi struggled to take command in set two, dropping balls and finding the net on several occasions as ACS took a 13-8 lead. SoHi began to rally back and tied it at 15-all, but a serve into the net by Holleigh Jaime sparked three unanswered points by ACS, who finished on an 8-1 kick to win the set and tie the match up.

“ACS woke up,” Kupferschmid said, adding that the Lions were able to take advantage of SoHi’s younger subs entering the game. “When you substitute in volleyball, if they’re not your typical nucleus, there’s a struggle.”

The beginning to match three saw more of the Stars struggle to find a groove. More shots landing in the netting and on the floor saw the lead exchange hands numerous times, and Kupferschmid eventually called timeout with ACS up 14-9.

However, the Stars began to turn things around starting with a strong kill point by Tuisaula that tied the set at 16 apiece. Leach added consecutive points on strikes to force an ACS timeout that capped a 10-3 SoHi run.

“The first one went so easy that we kind of shut down and didn’t play our game,” Leach said. “But we really picked each other up and stayed positive.”

ACS got as close as 22-21, but never could overcome the SoHi power as the Stars took set three to go up 2-1 in the match.

The fourth set was characterized by strong serving by sophomore Sierra Kuntz, who helped the Stars out to an 11-7 lead before the Lions called timeout. Kupferschmid also credited sophomore Hosanna Van Hout for a strong service game.

SoHi finished the set on a 5-1 run and clinched the victory on a service point by Leach.

Soldotna junior Bailey Leach sends a shot at Anchorage Christian’s Morgan Merriner (8) Friday night at the Soldotna Prep gym. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna junior Bailey Leach sends a shot at Anchorage Christian’s Morgan Merriner (8) Friday night at the Soldotna Prep gym. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna senior Carsen Brown sets up a shot for a teammate Friday night against Anchorage Christian at the Soldotna Prep gym. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna senior Carsen Brown sets up a shot for a teammate Friday night against Anchorage Christian at the Soldotna Prep gym. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

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