Soldotna staved off the threat of losing a clean sweep to Nikiski with a late rally in a nonconference volleyball match Tuesday night at Soldotna High School.
The Stars won 3-0 with scores of 25-16, 25-11 and 25-23 to improve to 2-0 overall. Nikiski dropped to 1-1 overall, excluding tournament play.
“I think our strength is our serve right now,” Soldotna coach Sheila Kupferschmid said. “Early season, we’re capitalizing on a lot of receive errors by the other team, and I hope to continue with that throughout the season.”
Kupferschmid was particularly pleased with the defensive play of senior libero Alex Ashe, who provided 12 digs.
“Alex is a very good all-around player,” Kupferschmid said. “She could play just about any position. She came through when the pressure was on, and I like her, I think she’s a good libero for us.”
Ashe said that even when SoHi was trailing in the third game, there was no reason to panic.
“We’re the type of team that if we lose, we come back stronger,” Ashe said. “We have high intensity.”
SoHi needed the intensity after trailing by seven points midway through the third game. However, several strong serves that Nikiski couldn’t handle put the Stars right back into the contest with six straight points.
Senior outside hitter Hayley Ramsell racked up 13 service points, eight blocks and six kills to lead the SoHi offense. Also, senior Skylar Shaw had 17 service points, six digs and six kills, senior Bailey Rosin had six kills, junior Makenna Rosin had seven blocks and six kills, and junior Lindsey Wong added five service points and three blocks.
Senior setter Rachel Thompson led the Bulldogs with 15 assists and four kills, while junior Brittany Perry had four kills and four serving aces and sophomore Ayla Pitt had three kills. Nikiski libero Laura Hufford backed the team up with 26 digs.
The Stars led wire-to-wire in the first two games, distancing themselves with a six-point streak to win the first game and began with a 10-point run in the second game to cruise to a 2-0 match lead.
But with the coaching experience that she holds, Kupferschmid said she knew better than to let her players coast.
“In volleyball, anything goes,” Kupferschmid said. “If you’re trailing, you win one set and then it becomes two, and then you’re in a match in that final set.”
A few deadly service points from junior Brittany Perry put Nikiski up 7-3 before Kupferschmid called timeout. It allowed the Stars to steady the deficit through another few serves, but the Bulldogs extended the lead again with Perry at the helm to 19-11.
“I think we just got frustrated with all the serve-receive overlaps, but we got it figured out,” Ashe said about the late drama. “We just needed one good pass and once we got it, we had really good serves and could get a run going.”
After a hit from Lauren O’Brien sent the ball into the net for a Soldotna point, Hayley Ramsell got the Stars back into contention with her serves. SoHi scored six straight points before Nikiski coach Stacey Segura called timeout.
Nikiski pushed its lead to 22-17 at one point, but SoHi finished strong with an 8-1 run, which was punctuated with two kills from Skylar Shaw and a service point from Ashe.
“Skylar came up big in the end there,” Kupferschmid said. “She came up and turned her body and placed it nicely down the line. That’s something we’re working with in practice as well.”
Segura was happy about the third game, even with the late collapse.
“It showed how we actually played,” Segura said. “We were playing really well. There was just a mixup on some chemistry going on in the first and second games, and once we got it cleared up, we were able to play.
“Hopefully we can leave with that game and have a good weekend this weekend.”
Nikiski is facing a busy slate of Southcentral Conference games with road trips to ACS, Grace Christian and Houston on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Soldotna is off until the West Spiketacular tournament in Anchorage on Sept. 19 and 20.