The Soldotna volleyball team will look to keep running when the Northern Lights Conference volleyball tournament begins in Palmer on Thursday, while Kenai Central will look forward to a fresh start.
The visiting Stars topped the Kards 25-21, 25-11 and 25-18 to continue a late-season hot streak that came on the heels of losing three straight NLC matches on a road trip to the Matanuska-Susitna valleys.
“That’s exactly the way I wanted them to regroup after the tough Valley trip,” said Soldotna coach Sheila Kupferschmid, whose club finishes at 5-5 in the league and 11-5 overall. “Regions should be different.”
The Stars have won four straight, plus taking the Silver Bracket at the Dimond-Service tournament, since the trip to the Valley. SoHi finishes tied for third in the conference with Colony. Palmer, at 8-2, is the top seed, while 7-3 Kodiak is No. 2.
Kupferschmid pointed to the block and consistency as reasons for the late-season surge.
“It starts with the block,” the coach said. “We’re getting a good block up and that sets up the defense.”
She said middle blockers Makenna Rosin, who had six kills and two blocks, and Haley Miller, who had four kills and two blocks, have really come on.
Hayley Ramsell, who had 10 kills, 10 digs, seven service points and three blocks, also helps with the block.
“Hayley Ramsell is a force,” Kupferschmid said. “She’s one of the best players I’ve coached. She has all the skills.”
Once the block was solidified, it made SoHi’s back-row passing even better.
“One of our strengths has been the pass from the back row,” Kupferschmid said. “I have seniors back there and they are all good athletes.”
Libero Alex Ashe had 31 digs and 10 service points, while Skylar Shaw had 15 digs, six service points and five kills, and Bailey Rosin had 18 digs, three service points and two kills. Kupferschmid said setter Lindsey Wong continues to improve running the offense.
The coach said it has been particularly gratifying to watch the Soldotna and Skyview volleyball teams come together seamlessly.
“The kids are jelling,” she said. “It’s been an absolute joy to coach this team.”
On senior night, Kenai had some tough luck when senior leader Kiana Harding continued to be affected by illness.
Kenai coach Tracie Beck, whose team finishes No. 6 in the league at 1-9 and 5-12, said Harding has been running a fever and actually fainted in one practice this week.
“She’s a senior and she’s doing all she can,” Beck said of Harding, who had five kills and two assists.
Also getting honored on senior night were Kyla Whannell, Andrea Rivera, Jamie Bagley, Heidi Perkins and Amber Walter. Bagley and Perkins each had seven digs, while Walter had five assists.
Also for Kenai, Abby Beck had 12 digs, seven assists, six kills and an ace, while Emily Koziczkowski had three kills and an assist.
Beck said the Kardinals took time away from serving practice this week to practice defense. She said the defense got better, but she said the Kards did not serve well Saturday.
“We have a whole new season,” Beck said. “We get to start over. Everyone gets a fresh start.”