The host Soldotna volleyball team handed Nikiski its first loss of the season Tuesday in nonconference volleyball action.
Just as impressively, the Stars volleyball program handed over $2,023 to the Breast Cancer Fund of the Central Peninsula Health Foundation.
The match served as a fundraiser, and the $2,023 includes money from split the pot, the gate receipts and a silent dessert auction. The program will raise even more money for the fund with a serve-a-thon in practice today and a class challenge that is running this month.
The Stars avenged a five-set loss to the Bulldogs two weeks ago with game scores of 27-25, 21-25, 25-17 and 25-23.
Class 4A SoHi stopped a four-game skid and improved to 8-6 overall, while the Class 3A Bulldogs fell to 11-1. The Stars had lost senior opposite hitter Ella Stenga to injury on a weekend road trip, and Stenga was still out Tuesday.
Soldotna coach Sheila Kupferschmid said the plan was to ride middle hitters Aliann Schmidt and Bailey Leach.
The duo came through, with Schmidt recording 15 kills and three blocks, and Leach collecting 14 kills and five blocks.
“Aliann and Bailey Leach both had phenomenal games,” Kupferschmid said. “They both made a difference and their block was effective.”
There was standout play in the middle on the other side of the net as well. Nikiski middle Bethany Carstens had 18 kills and two blocks.
“I think Bethany did awesome,” Nikiski coach Stacey Segura said. “She’s really turning into an advanced middle.
“She’s reading the block well, tipping when she needs to and hitting it hard when there’s an opening. Last year, she was always jumping at the ball and trying to hit it hard.”
With fireworks in the middle on both sides of the net, Kupferschmid said there were other subtle things that decided the match.
“My passing was pretty good,” Kupferschmid said. “We didn’t miss many serves. It was a long match, but the focus was there.”
All the games except for the third game were tight.
In the first game, Schmidt dominated late as SoHi fought off two game points to win.
The first came at 24-23, but Schmidt came though with a kill. The next came at 25-24, but Schmidt again had a kill. Then when SoHi had game point at 26-25, Schmidt — surprise, surprise — again had a kill.
In the second game, Nikiski took a 5-0 lead on a run of four service points from Kaitlyn Johnson, who had 14 assists, four aces and four kills. SoHi could never quite get out of the hole, closing to 21-20, but never holding the lead the entire game.
While Nikiski did lose the undefeated season, Segura said she thought her team played well and could use the loss to build on. The coach’s one disappointment was the serve-receive in Game 3, when Holleigh Jaime had a run of six serves for a 21-13 lead that would be decisive.
The fourth game featured nine ties and five lead changes. With SoHi holding a 22-21 lead, Kodi McGillivray, who had 15 service points, seven kills and three digs, had a big kill down the line that Kupferschmid said opened up Nikiski’s defense.
A service winner by Shay Zener, who had 15 service points, 11 digs and five kills, followed for 24-21 and match point.
Nikiski fought back to 24-23, but a hitting error by the Bulldogs ended it.
“It’s a big victory for us as we go into our region run,” Kupferschmid said. “Nikiski’s a good team with good ball control.”
Kupferschmid said Kalyn McGillivray did a good job filling in for Stenga with 14 service points, seven digs, four assists and a block.
Cally Christianson orchestrated the attack with 36 assists, 15 service points, three kills, two blocks and two digs.
“Their middles did a good job of moving the ball around,” Segura said. “Every time our defense adjusted, they were doing something different.”
The Nikiski coach said her squad’s defense also was solid. Kelsey Clark led the effort with 30 digs, while Melanie Sexton had 20 digs, four kills and two aces, and Elisa Fardin added 14 digs.
“Kelsey Clark played really well,” Segura said. “She stays on the court the whole time and she’s an outlet for hitting more than I’d like because that can be tiring.
“But she’s a solid athlete mentally and physically. I’ve never had an issue with her breaking down.”
Emma Wik had 12 assists for the Bulldogs, while Rylee Jackson added four kills and four blocks.