Nikiski captured its second straight Shayna Pritchard Memorial Tournament title Saturday night at Nikiski, but not before a young, energetic Kenai Central squad had something to say about it.
In a rematch of last week’s Homer Jamboree final, the Bulldogs rallied from a first-game loss to post a 2-1 victory in the best-of-three final over Kenai, winning with scores of 23-25, 25-10 and 15-3. The win came after the program’s first tournament title last year in the event’s 11-year history.
“It’s pretty special to win and hold onto it,” said Nikiski head coach Stacey Segura. “It feels like ours until someone else takes it.”
The tournament is held in honor of Pritchard, a 2007 Nikiski graduate who was killed in a car crash in Colorado in June 2007.
To put a special end to the evening, Pritchard’s 29-year-old twin sister, Sherra, was on hand to present the award and winning trophies to the teams.
“She did it last year, and it’s just an honor to have her,” Segura said.
Kenai sophomore Bethany Morris earned tournament MVP honors, and junior Chelsea Plagge received the Shayna Marie Pritchard Award, given to the athlete that most embodied the values that Pritchard exhibited.
“That’s the coolest award ever,” said Kenai head coach Tracie Beck. “Chelsea is hard-working with the grit and attitude and positivity.
“That’s the most special award out of the whole weekend.”
The Homer Mariners took third place with a match victory over Eielson earlier on Saturday, and Ketchikan took fifth place with a win over Redington. Before the final, Kenai defeated Eielson in the tourney semifinals and Nikiski beat Homer to set up the championship match.
A young Kardinals team made a show of it in Game 1 of the final, going point for point with Nikiski through much of the game. The Bulldogs were two points away from winning at 23-21, but a bolstered Kenai team rallied for the final four points and take a 1-0 match lead.
Sophomore Kaylee Lauritsen provided several points, starting with a powerful kill to start the finishing kick and setting up game point with a stuff block. A shot into the net by Nikiski blocker Kaycee Bostic clinched the game win for Kenai.
“Kenai came out really strong, and even as a young team, they have a lot of hustle,” Segura said. “We usually have to feel things out at first.”
However, after the opening game, the Bulldogs found their groove and proceed to outscore the Kards 40-13 the rest of the way, starting with a 5-0 start to Game 2. Deadly serving by senior libero Kelsey Clark helped turn up the energy level in the gym, which was rocking by the time Nikiski finished off a 25-10 game victory to tie the match at 1-all and force a Game 3.
“We’re a little older, so I think we were able to keep our composure better,” Segura said. “We know there’s two more games to go.”
A service point by Kaitlyn Johnson won Game 2 for Nikiski, which started strong again in Game 3, scoring the first eight points before Kenai could recover for its first point of the game. A kill point by Bethany Carstens sealed the tournament title.
Carstens finished with a team-high six kills, adding to the four kills by Bostic and three by Johnson. Bostic also notched five aces and two blocks, while Johnson had four aces and six assists.
Kelsey Clark’s 12 digs led the defense, which also got 11 digs from Angela Druesedow, eight digs from America Jeffreys and 10 digs and nine assists from Emma Wik.
Soldotna 3, Seward 2
The visiting Soldotna volleyball team notched a 3-1 nonconference victory over host Seward on Friday in the first nontournament match of the season for both schools.
The scores were 26-24, 22-25, 28-26 and 25-22.
Seahawks coach Jodi Kurtz, whose squad plays at the 3A level, wrote in a text message that her team has been working on a different way of setting and that going up against a 4A school like Soldotna was a perfect time to test out all the work.
“The Seahawks girls showed the hard work that they have been putting into practice,” Kurtz wrote.
Kurtz said her outside hitters were solid off the setting of Allie Toloff, Katelyn Sawyer-Lemme and Anavey Ambrosiani. Kurtz also said the defense was amazing in this match.
“They played amazing as a team,” Kurtz wrote.
11th Shayna Pritchard Memorial tournament
Friday, Saturday in Nikiski
MVP — Bethany Morris, Kenai.
All-Tournament team — Kaitlyn Johnson, Nikiski; Jaiden Streiff, Kenai; Kelsey Clark, Nikiski; Marina Carroll, Homer; Bethany Carstens, Nikiski; Brianna Hetrick, Homer; Laura Inama, Homer; Taylor Lewis, Eielson; Karla Villanueva, Eielson.