Soldotna libero Holleigh Jaime digs up a ball Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, against Nikiski at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna libero Holleigh Jaime digs up a ball Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, against Nikiski at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

SoHi volleyball heads to state with favorable bracket matchups

Class 4A state volleyball tournament

All matches at the Alaska Airlines Center

Thursday’s games

Game 1 — Wasilla vs. South, 10 a.m.

Game 2 — Dimond vs. Colony, 11:45 a.m.

Game 3 — Soldotna vs. West Valley, 1:30 p.m.

Game 4 — Thunder Mountain vs. West, 3:15 p.m.

Game 5 — Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 5:15 p.m.

Game 6 — Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 7 p.m.

Friday’s games

Game 7 — Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 10 a.m.

Game 8 — Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 11:45 a.m.

Game 9 — Game 6 loser vs. Game 7 winner, 1:30 p.m.

Game 10 — Game 5 loser vs. Game 8 winner, 3:15 p.m.

Game 11 — Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 5:15 p.m.

Game 12 — Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 7 p.m.

Saturday’s games

Game 13 — Game 11 loser vs. Game 12 winner, 12 p.m.

Game 14 — Game 11 winner vs. Game 13 winner, 5 p.m. (championship)

Game 15 — Game 14 winner vs. Game 14 loser, 6:45 p.m. (if necessary)

By JOEY KLECKA

Peninsula Clarion

Heading into their third state tournament appearance in five years, the Soldotna Stars volleyball squad is looking at one of the nicest state brackets they’ve seen.

Five days after finishing third in the Northern Lights Conference tournament, SoHi begins its Class 4A state tournament run today at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage with a 1:30 p.m. match against West Valley. A win moves the Stars to a 7 p.m. matchup tonight against the winner of Thunder Mountain and West, while a loss drops the Stars to an 11:45 a.m. Friday elimination contest.

More important for the Stars, however, could be the lucky draw of the bracket matchups, as the “big dogs” of the tournament are all on the other side, with Dimond, South Anchorage, Wasilla and Colony all matched up in Thursday’s other first-round games.

“Those guys are always the leaders of the pack,” said SoHi head coach Sheila Kupferschmid. “We didn’t get them first round, they’re not even in our bracket. That’s good, so I can say I’m optimistic.”

As head coach at SoHi, Kupferchmid has helped bring the Stars to the big dance three out of five years, including 2017 when SoHi went 1-2 to finish fifth, SoHi’s best appearance of the last five years.

SoHi finished 13-4 this year in nontournament play, then clinched their ticket to state with a 3-0 win over Palmer at the NLC tourney before finishing with a 3-0 loss to Colony and a tight 3-2 loss to Wasilla with an 18-16 fifth set score. Wasilla went on to win the NLC title.

Kupferschmid said the competition was close between the Knights, Warriors and Stars, which she believes sets SoHi up for a competitive state run, as long as things go right.

“That region tournament was very competitive,” she said. “We’re right in there with the best, we’re very competitive, and it just happens that (Colony and Wasilla) are on other side of the bracket.”

Since losing to West Valley 3-1 in an elimination game last year at state, SoHi has only faced the Wolfpack once, a 25-9 victory in one set Sept. 14 at the West Spiketacular tournament. Kupferschmid said West Valley always features a group of tall players that control the net, but last year’s state squad graduated several key seniors. The 2018 Wolfpack features seven seniors on the team, but it’s a squad that SoHi has beaten this year.

“I told the kids, if I were you, I would be excited,” Kupferschmid said. “I’d be encouraged. It’s an opportunity.”

Kupferschmid added that her team, which is one of most experienced SoHi teams she has coached with six seniors on the state roster, will need to play aggressively to stay in contention.

“Every match is different, and what we need … is my outsides need to be able to keep balls in the court,” Kupferschmid said. “Always an area that can break down is our serve-receive. We’ve emphasized it in the latter part of this season, and I think we’re much improved. That’s an area if you win that serve and serve-receive, it’s a big part of the match.”

SoHi has flourished this year with First-Team All-Conference hitters Ituau Tuisaula and Aliann Schmidt and Second-Team middle Bailey Leach at the net. The trio have provided an injection of power at the front of the net, along with seniors Brittani Blossom and Kodi McGillivray and junior Serena Foglia.

“I think my front line can match up with anyone’s front line,” Kupferchmid said.

Kupferschmid also credited junior First-Team All-Conference libero Holleigh Jaime for keeping plays alive behind the vaunted front line.

“She’s peaking at the right time,” Kupferschmid said. “She had a good region tournament.”

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