The Kenai Central volleyball team continued its early season form with a thrilling 3-2 nonconference victory over Nikiski Tuesday night on Cliff Massie court in Kenai.
The Kardinals struggled early and found themselves in a 2-1 game deficit, but held on to win with scores of 22-25, 25-8, 20-25, 25-9 and 15-7.
Kenai coach Tracie Beck said the home crowd — particularly the rowdy group of shirtless boys with crimson-painted chests behind the bench — fueled the team to push on in times of struggle.
“They were amazing tonight and it got us super excited,” Beck said. “The closer we got to the energy, the more I think it got us going.”
Abby Beck led the charge with 14 kills and 14 digs, Alli Steinbeck provided 27 assists and Cori Holmes furnished 28 digs. Coach Beck said she was pleased with a few players that stepped up, including Cierra King, who had 11 kills and six stuff blocks, and Emily Koziczkowski, who blasted eight kills, and Bethany Coghill.
Kenai swept Nikiski in two games in Saturday’s third-place match at the Shayna Pritchard Memorial tournament at Nikiski, winning with scores of 25-15 and 25-14. The crimson birds earned a bye on the first day of the tournament but lost a close match to eventual winners Wasilla, before beating Nikiski for third. Beck chalked it up to inconsistent play.
“We have a lot of work to do but a lot of potential to tap into as well,” Beck said. “It’s nice to have a bench, we’re deeper than we ever have been.”
Prior to the Shayna Pritchard tournament, Kenai opened its season by winning the Palmer Jamboree tournament, beating Grace Christian to the title.
In Tuesday’s opening game, Nikiski started fast by running the score to 13-7, but Kenai closed it back up to a point by taking advantage of a few Nikiski miscues. However, the Bulldogs stormed away in the latter half of the game with several powerful serve points by Brianna Vollertson and won 25-22.
In the second game, Kenai dominated play while Nikiski worked to just stay afloat, which wasn’t easy against Abby Beck’s power. The Kenai senior sent a few glancing blows towards Nikiski as part of a six-point swing that left the home team leading 10-2. The Kards later ballooned their lead to 18-5 on the strength of seven unanswered points, and ultimately took the game 25-8 to tie the match up at a win apiece.
Game 3 was the most hotly contested one of the night, as neither team led by more than four points until the dying seconds. A net violation by Nikiski gave Kenai a brief 17-16 lead, but the Bulldogs responded by scoring six of the next seven points with a few kills from Ayla Pitt and Vollertson, and ended up with the 25-20 win, taking a 2-1 match lead as well.
Steinbeck sparked Kenai’s charge in the fourth game with three service points in the first five attempts. A string of 12 straight points put Kenai into the lead 20-5 and on to the 25-9 victory, setting up the winner-takes-all game.
In game 5, Kenai’s steadfast defense kept them in the game early on en route to an early 8-2 lead, which the Bulldogs could never recover from. On one early point, Steinbeck and Alexis Baker teamed up to keep the ball in play on a wild sequence of events that sent both players scattering across the gym floor.
Kenai won’t see Northern Lights Conference action next until Kodiak, Thursday, Sept. 10 at home, the same date that Grace visits Nikiski for Southcentral Conference play.
Soldotna 3, Homer 0
The Stars swept a nonconference match against the Mariners Tuesday night in Homer, winning with game scores of 25-20, 25-19 and 25-18.
SoHi will travel to ACS Friday for a nonconference match at 6:30 p.m.