The Kenai Central and Nikiski volleyball teams both won a pair of matches Thursday at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage to advance to the semifinal of the Class 3A state volleyball tournament.
That Kenai-Nikiski semifinal is at 5:15 p.m. Friday. The Kardinals have won every match against Nikiski this season.
In the Class 4A tournament, Soldotna, making its first state appearance since 2019, lost to East 25-13, 25-22 and 25-20 at the double-elimination tournament and must make its way through the playback bracket, starting with a match against West Valley at 10 a.m.
Kenai, the defending Class 3A state champs, defeated Nome-Beltz 25-13, 25-8 and 25-17 in the first round, then defeated Valdez 20-25, 25-16, 25-19 and 25-14. The Kardinals and Buccaneers have met in the last two Class 3A state finals, with Valdez winning in 2021.
Against Nome, Kate Wisnewski had 23 assists, while Emma Beck had 16 kills and Sophie Tapley had six kills.
Against Valdez, Beck had 22 kills and three blocks, Tapley had five kills, Avia Miller had five kills, Ellsi Miller had three blocks, and Camilla Gonzalez and Grace Beiser each had three aces.
The Kardinals are looking to play in a fourth straight state final and win the school’s second state title. Kenai lost to Homer in the state final in 2019, and there was no final in 2020 due to the pandemic. Before 2019, Kenai had not been to state since 2005.
Nikiski defeated Barrow 25-22, 25-17 and 25-20 in the first round. The Bulldogs, who were fifth at state last year, then downed Mt. Edgecumbe 20-25, 25-15, 25-17 and 25-13.
Against Barrow, Evelyn Reichert had 23 digs and five kills, Kailey Stynsberg had 20 digs, Avery Ellis had 15 digs and 11 assists, Alexa Iyatunguk had nine kills and eight blocks, and Mandee Roofe had six kills and eight blocks.
Against the Braves, Avery Ellis had 21 digs and 16 assists, Reichert had 20 digs, 11 kills and five aces, Iyatunguk had 10 blocks and five kills, Roofe had nine kills and seven blocks, Abby White had 24 digs and Stynsberg had 20 digs.
The Bulldogs are looking to add to 1992, 1994, 1998, 2000 and 2018 state titles.
The loser of the Kenai-Nikiski semifinal plays the survivor of the playback bracket at 10 a.m. Saturday for a spot in the state final.
If Soldotna wins against West Valley, the Stars play South at 1:30 p.m. Friday. The winner of that match plays at 7 p.m. Friday, with the winner there getting to play the Wasilla-East loser at noon Saturday for a spot in the final.
The Stars have never appeared in a state final.