A heart to heart team meeting is one thing. Winning a five-set match, and saving two match points in the process, is quite another.
The host Soldotna volleyball team notched its first nontournament victory Tuesday, outlasting Homer 23-25, 25-13, 25-12, 22-25 and 18-16 in nonconference play. The Stars are now 1-5 in nontournament play, while the Mariners are 1-2.
After losing a match to Nikiski and two matches to Wasilla in the past week, Soldotna head coach Luke Baumer called a team meeting and addressed the tension he was seeing on the court.
“You’ve got six players in a 30 by 30 square,” Baumer said. “If you don’t talk and you don’t have good chemistry, forget it, you’re going to lose all the time.
“And so we had a really, really big, long group discussion. And you noticed the difference today.”
Baumer said everybody on the team elevated their game Tuesday.
“When it comes down to a game like that, you’ve got to rely on everybody on your team,” he said.
Setter Nicole Dickinson had 40 assists, which Baumer said is the most he’s seen on his team in his four years as head coach. He said Karley Johnson had the best night of her varsity career with 11 kills, while Clare Henry had a career-high 16 digs to go with six aces. Katelyn Morrison soared to 17 kills.
But it almost wasn’t enough.
Homer led 14-13 in Game 5, but some swift ball movement set up a kill by Johnson to tie the score. The Mariners then led 15-14, but Homer committed a hitting error to tie it again. With SoHi on match point at 16-15, Gracie Miotke had one of her seven kills to tie the score.
At 17-16, Morrison finally ended the match with a kill.
Homer is a Class 3A school, while the Stars play at Class 4A, but Baumer said the match was great for his team.
“These guys aren’t just competitive for 3A,” Baumer said. “They’re competitive everywhere.”
Homer coach Stephanie Carroll also said she appreciates the local opportunities to get better. SoHi lost to Nikiski on Thursday, then Homer beat the Bulldogs on Saturday before losing to the Stars on Tuesday.
“The peninsula is tough,” Carroll said. “That helps you get ready for fighting it out at the end to see who’s gonna get to go to state. If you don’t get beat, sometimes you don’t know what to work on and you don’t get better.”
Carroll knows what her team has to do better.
“Our serving was atrocious,” she said. “We had a stretch where we had some girls sick. We kind of have not been serving as much in practice as we should.”
In Game 5, Homer missed four serves, while the Stars did not miss any.
Baumer agreed the serving was key. He said Dickinson, Henry, Morrison, Abygale Shaeffer and Sadie Lane all have tough serves.
Brooke Shafer had 22 assists, six aces and four kills for the Mariners, while Izzy Dye had 13 kills, Nevaeh Diaz had six kills and Channing Lowney had two kills and two aces.
Kenai 3, Seward 0
The Kardinals went on the road to improve to 2-0 in the Southcentral Conference and 4-0 in nontournament play, while Seward drops to 0-1 and 0-1.
The scores were 25-18, 25-21 and 27-25.
Jorgi Phillips had 26 assists and two aces for the Kards, while Emma Beck had 22 digs and 14 kills, Kim Chanley had 14 digs, Cali Holmes had 12 kills and Camilla Gonzalez had three aces.