The Soldotna volleyball team snapped a two-match losing streak by defeating host Nikiski 27-25, 20-25, 25-13 and 25-13 on Tuesday.
The Stars moved to 13-4 overall by avenging a five-set loss to the Bulldogs in mid-September. Nikiski lost its third straight match to drop to 7-4.
Both Soldotna coach Sheila Kupferschmid and Nikiski coach Stacey Segura said their teams were improved after a tough weekend of volleyball, but it was the Stars that improved enough to get the victory.
SoHi’s losses came to Wasilla on Thursday and Saturday. Kupferschmid said two weaknesses exposed by the Warriors were defense and consistency in the serve game.
Kupferschmid took advantage of her squad’s veteran nature by completely changing up the defense in Monday’s practice. She said the Stars went back to a defense they were using last season.
“We changed our defense and that defense worked tonight,” Kupferschmid said. “The kids practiced it and then did a good job with it.”
The coach also changed the approach of some of her servers. That resulted in less missed serves and more opportunities for the rest of Soldotna’s game to shine.
With 17 digs, Holleigh Jaime led the defensive and serve-receive effort. Carsen Brown, with 44 assists, ran the offense. That offense mostly went through the middle to Bailey Leach (14 kills, 10 service points) and Aliann Schmidt (13 kills, two blocks). Ituau Tuisaula added 11 kills on the outside.
“Their middles could not contain our middles,” said Kupferschmid, who also received 15 service points from Brittani Blossom.
The match started close but SoHi pressed the advantage more and more as it went on. The first game was knotted at 25 when Nikiski missed a serve and had a hitting error to lose the game. The second game was tied at 20 when Nikiski’s Kaitlyn Johnson, who had 12 assists, two kills and an ace, served out five points for the victory. Johnson’s serves kept Soldotna out of rhythm, as the Stars didn’t return one and committed three hitting errors during that stretch.
But the Stars would be in total command in the third and fourth games.
“Our serve-receive was slacking in the third and fourth games,” Segura said.
Nikiski lost to Wasilla on Friday and Homer on Saturday.
“Soldotna is a crosstown rival, but it’s not a conference match,” Segura said. “We played a lot better than we did Saturday. We’re starting to dig out of this rut we are in.”
Segura said Kelsey Clark, with 19 digs, did a nice job of steadying the defense, while America Jeffreys also had 15 digs and an ace.
Also for the Bulldogs, Emma Wik had seven assists, two kills and an ace, Bethany Carstens had seven kills and two blocks, and Kaycee Bostic had an ace, seven kills and a block.
“We definitely have great kids with awesome positivity,” Segura said. “They understand what is important in playing the game of volleyball and will pick it up at the end of the year.”