SoHi volleyball survives Nikiski

The Soldotna Stars rallied from behind to win a 3-2 dogfight over Nikiski in nonconference volleyball action Tuesday night at Nikiski High School, with scores of 11-25, 25-18, 19-25, 25-12 and the winner-take-all set 15-11.

Facing a determined Class 3A home team, SoHi dug deep to come out on top, and as junior libero Shaylynn Zener put it, the team had to “dig out of quicksand.”

“(Assistant) coach Luke (Baumer) talked about it over the weekend with us, he used a quote from the movie, ‘The Replacements,’” Zener said.

The Class 4A Stars finished 2-1 over a tough three-day stretch of Northern Lights Conference games against Wasilla, Palmer and Colony last weekend, and as the lesson goes in “The Replacements,” “You think everything is going fine, then one thing goes wrong, and then another, and another. You try to fight back, but the harder you fight, the deeper you sink.”

Against a steadfast Nikiski defense, Soldotna had to use every ounce of offensive firepower to claim the nonconference win. SoHi improved to 6-1 overall with the win.

“That’s a very strong team,” said Soldotna coach Sheila Kupferschmid. “They block well and defend well, and are well-coached.”

For the Bulldogs, a close 3-2 loss to Southcentral Conference opponent and perennial state contender Grace Christian on Sept. 9 only helped bolster their chemistry and strengthen any weaknesses that were exposed.

“The biggest goal tonight was to use Soldotna’s talent to get better,” said Nikiski coach Stacey Segura.

Zener finished the night with 60 assists. Judah Aley led the offense with eight kills, Drewe Zeek had five kills, Ituau Tuisaula notched eight blocks, Aliann Schmidt had seven blocks, Kody McGillivary ended with 15 set points, and Cally Christianson notched an inspired serving performance to finish with 18 points.

As a libero, Zener was able to appreciate the stout defensive play by the Bulldogs.

“Nikiski has a really nice defense, they have a good back row,” Zener said. “It’s something to admire.”

Segura credited her squad with its best blocking performance of the season. Ayla Pitt led the way with three blocks.

“SoHi has some awesome servers, and it can be a huge difference between staying focused or not,” she said.

Pitt also had five kills, while Bethany Carstens chipped in eight kills. Melanie Sexton notched 52 digs and five kills, Kelsey Clark had 56 digs, and Kaitlyn Johnson had 13 assists and two aces.

SoHi opened the night with a quick 5-0 lead in the first game, only to see Nikiski answer with a 14-1 run that made it tough for the Stars to come back. Pitt strung together several kill points at the net to help the Bulldogs score eight straight points and take a 23-9 lead.

In Game 2, a tough serving performance by Kodi McGillivary helped SoHi take an 8-4 lead, then Tuisaula came on strong with a big offensive attack at the net. An ace serve by Christianson put SoHi up 18-14, then McGillivary finished off the set with another commanding serving performance to tie up the match.

Nikiski got off to a fast start in the third set, taking a 7-2 lead and stretching it to 13-5 before SoHi could respond. The Bulldogs led 20-10 before Kupferschmid was forced to call timeout.

Out of the break, SoHi went on a 9-2 run before Segura called timeout with a 22-19 lead. From there, the Bulldogs finished with three straight points, ending with a service point by libero Kelsey Clark to take a 2-1 match lead.

Soldotna, desperate to stay alive, came out swinging in the fourth set, grabbing a 10-2 lead thanks to quality serving by Zeek and a stifling net presence by Tuisaula.

Schmidt made her presence known late in the match with several strong kill points and Tuisaula forced a fifth game with a kill on match point.

Nikiski jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the final set, only to see SoHi come back with seven unanswered points on the back of Aley, who came alive with a pronounced attack from her outside hitter position. SoHi won the match on a faulty serve by Nikiski that landed in the netting.

Kenai 3, Seward 1

The Kardinals grabbed a nonconference victory over the Seahawks on Tuesday evening.

More in Sports

Week 1 prep football preview: Getting back to normal

The five high school football teams from the Kenai Peninsula begin the… Continue reading

Some great examples of genetic diversity with Kenai River king salmon populations. (Photo by Ken Gates)
Refuge Notebook: Where have the big Kenai River kings gone?

Over the years, fishing for king salmon has provided many anglers with… Continue reading

Bradley Walters leads the pack up Angle Hill on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, at the Salmon Run Series at Tsalteshi Trails. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Out of the office: Race thyself

During the pandemic, I questioned the value of regular community racing and… Continue reading

Anchorage's Lars Arneson finishes third in the men's Mount Marathon Race on Monday, July 4, 2022, in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Arneson sets new record at Mat Peak

Lars Arneson, a 2009 graduate of Cook Inlet Academy now living in… Continue reading

Anchorage's Will Ross rides to victory in the Soggy Bottom 100 on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. (Photo provided by Angela DiBeradino)
Anchorage’s Ross gets record back in Soggy Bottom 100

Anchorage’s Will Ross now has Alaska’s most coveted endurance mountain biking record.… Continue reading

Nick Varney
Reeling ‘Em In: Hints from Nick on catchin’ cohos

Silvers loathe direct sunlight and are spooked by shadows

Hogue, Aldridge win Soldotna Cycle Series 5

Dylan Hogue and Morgan Aldridge picked up victories at the fifth Soldotna… Continue reading

Take a number. The "patients" wait briefly in the trap box before being seen and released upstream to continue their migration. (Photo by Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)
Refuge Notebook: Anatomy of a fish weir — Keeping a finger on the pulse of Alaska’s salmon runs

During a routine physical exam, your doctor checks your vitals: Weight, heart… Continue reading

Mt. Redoubt rises above Cook Inlet and the Anchor River drainage as fireweed is in bloom, as seen from Diamond Ridge Road on Friday, July 22, 2022, near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Out of the Office: Take the long way around

“Slow Down. What’s the hurry?” reads an inscription on the Reuben Call… Continue reading

Most Read