The Colony and Soldotna volleyball teams played in a five-game match for the first time this season Friday, and it showed.
Pressure was a factor in the biggest moments of the fifth game, as the Knights lost their first two match points to a hitting error and service error, then the Stars lost a match point due to a service error. The Knights finally finished off an 18-25, 25-16, 15-25, 25-22 and 18-16 victory on a Soldotna hitting error.
The Knights improved to 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the Northern Lights Conference. The Stars are 2-1 in the league and 2-2 overall after coming back to sweep visiting Wasilla on Saturday.
While both Colony coach Amy Carter and SoHi coach Sheila Kupferschmid said their squads could have faced pressure better, they both came away more than satisfied with the progress of their squads.
The two teams had played a nonconference match on Aug. 24, with Colony notching a sweep.
“I think both sides played well — way better than the first time we played,” Carter said.
“I told the kids that walking away from this match, they ought to be encouraged,” Kupferschmid said. “It’s early, and that was a good volleyball match.”
In Game 5, neither team led by more than two points. Colony reached its first match point at 14-13 when Eve Stephens, who had 15 kills, spiked an errant pass from the Stars. But a hitting error from the Knights tied it at 14.
Colony then pushed SoHi to the brink again on a kill by Isabel List, who had 10 kills. But a service error knotted the game at 15.
Bailey Leach, who had 12 kills and four solo blocks, then handed the Stars a match point with a kill, but a Soldotna service error evened things at 16.
A List kill got the Knights a match point at 17-16. A long rally ensued off the serve of Avery Easley, who had 21 assists and 13 digs. At one point, Soldotna picked a ball out of the net to keep the rally going, but a hitting error ultimately ended the match.
“We have young kids,” Kupferschmid said. “They got the experience of playing in that close game and experiencing those pressure situations.”
Haylee Duguid added 12 digs for the Knights, while Gabby Wakaliuk had seven digs and Hallee Yundt added seven assists. Carter said her squad still must work on ball control and defense, but that doesn’t take away from Friday’s win.
“It was the first time they played aggressive through the whole match,” Carter said of her team. “They really showed they wanted to win.”
Kupferschmid said the middle blocker tandem of Leach and Aliann Schmidt, who had 15 kills and three solo blocks, continues to be formidable.
She also said Shay Zener, who had 35 digs and 19 service points, had a great defensive match on the powerful Stephens.
Holleigh Jaime also made a strong debut at libero with 31 digs, while Kupferschmid said Callie Christiansen, with 14 service points and 34 assists, did a good job running the offense. Ella Stenga had 15 service points and five kills, while Kodi McGillivray had five kills and 11 service points.
Soldotna 3, Wasilla 0
The Stars notched a 25-18, 25-20 and 25-23 victory despite missing starter Stenga, who was taking the SATs.
“I felt the kids played very well on their home court in this three-game homestand against Valley teams,” Kupferschmid said. “I’m sure they walk away from the weekend saying we can compete against these schools.”
SoHi switched from its usual one-setter offense, bringing in junior Carsen Brown to set with Christiansen. Christiansen had 22 assists, while Brown had eight assists.
“She handled the offense really well,” Kupferschmid said of Brown. “We have a couple of very adequate setters.”
The coach added that Schmidt and Leach were once again dominant, with Schmidt getting 11 kills and Leach notching six.
Kupferschmid also said the defense of Paulyne Catacutan and Jaime was solid. Jaime had 21 digs, Catacutan had 11 digs and Zener added 24 digs, five kills and eight service points.
McGillivray added five kills and 12 service points for the Stars, while Leach had five service points, Jaime had six service points and Christiansen had 12 service points.