The Soldotna Stars protected home court spectacularly Tuesday night with a three-set sweep of Seward, winning with scores of 25-13, 25-15 and 25-20.
Led by a dominating presence at the net, the Stars led wire to wire in each set, save for a one-point Seward lead in the second set. Stars head coach Sheila Kupferschmid praised her team’s execution, noting that when a bigger school is facing a smaller school, the penchant to relax and play to the opponent’s level of talent can hurt a squad.
“Sometimes when you play a nonconference foe, the play can be lackluster,” Kupferschmid said. “The kids didn’t do that, they came ready to play.”
SoHi competes at the Class 4A level of state volleyball, while Seward competes at the 3A level, so Tuesday’s matchup favored SoHi to begin with.
Kupferschmid said the superior play buoyed her spirits in anticipation of a tough upcoming schedule of conference opponents, not to mention a pair of contests against a high-powered Nikiski squad in the coming weeks.
SoHi junior Aliann Schmidt held court at the net with 10 kills and four stuff blocks, while senior Callie Christiansen came up big with eight service points.
“I thought Callie had one of her better nights setting for us,” Kupferschmid said. “She was really placing the ball well.”
Soldotna reached 6-2 overall, while Seward dropped to 5-2 overall.
Seahawks libero Ashley Jackson commanded the Seward floor with a high-flying performance that saw her finish with nine digs, along with four kills. Seward middle hitter Coral Petrosius and Riley Von Borstel added three kills apiece and Sequioa Sieverts ended with a kill.
Seward head coach Jodi Kurtz said her team’s struggle began with her players’ inability to be on the same page.
“There was no communication, the communication was a big issue,” Kurtz said. “They just didn’t work together as a team like they usually do, they didn’t talk.”
Undoubtedly, the Seahawks were troubled from the start due to SoHi’s front blocking and kill efforts. Outside hitter Kodi McGillivray had nine kills and five service points, Bailey Leach ended with four kills and two blocks, Ella Stenga had 11 service points and four assists, and Holleigh Jaime provided 21 digs.
Shay Zener finished with five kills and 19 service points. Zener is a three-year starter that has made a nice transition from libero to outside hitter this year.
“She’s found her home there,” Kupferschmid said.
Schmidt and McGillivray got things going in the first game with kill points that put SoHi up 4-0 in short order, and the Stars boosted the lead to 14-5. Petrosius continued to keep Seward in reach with several kill and service points, but SoHi’s depth won out in the end to take a 1-0 match lead.
A few mistakes by SoHi in the second set briefly put Seward in the lead at 6-5, but a kill by Jaime sparked a 6-0 run that had Seward scrambling yet again. Hannah Delker and McGillivray paved the way for a 2-0 match lead with a series of points on tips and stuff blocks.
A pair of serve points by Jaime to begin the third set led to leads of 8-2 and 15-9, and a kill by McGillivray furthered it to 20-11. A serve into the net by Seward’s Maggie Adkins put SoHi at match points, and an out-of-bounds hit by Jackson gave the Stars the win.