The Soldotna volleyball team finished tied for fifth at the Class 4A state volleyball tournament Friday at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.
After losing to East in the first round Thursday to get bumped into the playback bracket at the double-elimination tournament, Friday the Stars defeated West Valley 25-16, 22-25, 25-21 and 25-14 before losing to South 25-13, 25-16 and 25-18.
Soldotna was making its first state tournament appearance since 2017 through 2019, and the Stars also finished fifth in each of those years.
“I’m super happy with how everything turned out,” Soldotna head coach Luke Baumer said. “You can’t ask for anything better than what we got.
“We talked about it after the match against South. You can only put yourself in the best possible position to win, but you can’t control it. You can’t control winning and losing.”
Baumer said his team kept fighting, communicating and executing adjustments. He said in matches where your squad is undersized, there’s only so much you can do.
“Everybody that was on the floor today — it was their first state tournament,” Baumer said. “They all performed really well in that kind of circumstance.”
Against South, Baumer said the defense did really well. For that reason, Baumer said libero Kiara Forkner was player of the match.
The coach added Sadie Lane was player of the match against West Valley, and setter Nicole Dickinson got that honor against East. Dickinson also was named to the all-tournament team.
The coach added that Kiona Dexter and Veronica Crane had great tournaments as defensive specialists.
Offensively, Baumer said Athena Rossiter had it going against West Valley, and Hallie Fischer was able to get kills against South.
Against West Valley, Forkner had 24 digs and two aces, Dickinson had 34 assists and five aces, Lane had 15 kills and 10 digs, Rossiter had seven kills, Abygale Shaeffer had five kills and five aces. The five aces were a career high for Shaeffer.
Against South, Forkner had 19 digs and an ace, Dickinson had 13 assists, Fischer had seven kills and two blocks, Shaeffer had two kills and three blocks, and Rossiter had two kills and block.
The Stars now lose Dickinson, Rossiter and Forkner to graduation.
“They were very key components to why we were successful this year,” Baumer said. “Those three were pretty much the trifecta of success — the defense, the offense and the setter.”
Baumer said it will be a big challenge to get back to the state tournament because most of the Northern Lights Conference teams did not lose a large number of seniors. Even Wasilla, which did not lose a set in winning the Class 4A state title, returns major weapons.
“We’re deep and a lot of our team is coming back next year,” he said. “They’ll be able to find ways to connect, sometimes it just takes a little bit of time.”