WASILLA — Great win for the Wasilla Warriors. “Good loss” for the Soldotna Stars.
That’s not something heard every day, but that’s how Soldotna head coach Shelia Kupferschmid felt after Wasilla outlasted the Stars 3-2 (25-22, 25-22, 8-25, 21-25, 15-13) Friday night at Wasilla High.
“I’m OK; 15-13 in five,” Kupferschmid said. “A good loss.”
Soldotna found itself behind early and late. Wasilla took the first two sets of the match, and led 8-1 early in the fifth game. Soldotna not only rallied to win consecutive games to force a fifth set, but cut Wasilla’s advantage to just a point, 14-13, late in the fifth game.
“I’m very pleased my kids did not quit,” Kupferschmid said. “They were good enough to come back.”
Wasilla head coach Josie Cannon was thrilled to see her team survive the Stars rally, and a few hiccups along the way, and secure its second five-set win over a Northern Lights Conference opponent in less than three weeks. The Warriors also beat Palmer 3-2, with a 15-13 victory in the fifth game, in late September.
“It was bit of a roller coaster,” Cannon said of the win over the Stars.
After taking the two-game lead, Wasilla watched as its momentum vanished as Soldotna took the third game 25-8.
“That’s the sport of volleyball,” Cannon said of the momentum swings. “I’m really happy we had the determination to bounce back.”
Soldotna forced a final set with a 25-21 win in the fourth game.
“Soldotna’s always tough. Very strong defensively, and an offense to back it up,” Cannon said.
Wasilla’s Cheyenne Green used an ace early in the fifth game, and served her team to a 4-0 lead. Tristan Merchant picked up another ace during a four-point run to push Wasilla’s lead to 8-1.
“We needed it. I’m glad we had it,” Cannon said of the early lead in the fifth game. “We let off the gas pedal.”
Cannon praised the work of libero Emily Cizek throughout the game, particularly Cizek’s passing.
“I think our libero played really consistent throughout the entire match. (She) put up a pretty pass almost every time she touched the ball,” Cannon said. “Without that, we would have not been in this match.”
Kupferschmid said Kalyn McGillivray was key for the Stars, stepping up to help fill a void left by Ella Stenga, who did not play due to injury.
“I felt like (she) stepped up and did an awesome job on defense on that right side for Ella,” Kupferschmid said.
Kamryn Broach led Wasilla with a dozen kills in the win. Kaitlyn Cook had 38 assists and nine digs.
Aliann Schmidt led Soldotna with a match-high 17 kills. Bailey Leach added 11 kills and three blocks. Cally Christiansen finished with 22 assists.
Wasilla improved to 6-2 in NLC play with the win.
Overall, both head coaches said Friday’s match is an indication of how close the play could be in the upcoming region tournament in Kodiak.
“Against both Palmer and Wasilla, we’re 1-1. Next time we see them is going to be in the region tournament,” Kupferschmid said.
Cannon said there’s plenty of parity in the conference.
“It’s a very tight top of the bracket,” Cannon said.
Colony 3, Soldotna 0
The host Knights dropped the Stars to 5-4 in the NLC and 7-6 overall with a 25-19, 25-20 and 25-23 victory.
Again, Kupferschmid was not disheartened by the loss, which again came without Stenga.
“We lost, but hopefully we’ll learn from these losses and turn things around Tuesday,” Kupferschmid said.
The Stars host undefeated Nikiski Tuesday at 6 p.m. The match will raise funds for the Breast Cancer Fund of the Central Peninsula Health Foundation. There will be a dessert auction that evening to raise money, as well as a class contest all month and a serve-a-thon the next day in practice.
Kupferschmid said Shay Zener stepped up on defense against the Knights, while Aliann Schmidt held her down against one of the top hitters in the state.
“They were just stronger and bigger than us at the net, but we still competed with them,” Kupferschmid said.
Nikiski 3, Seward 2
The visiting Bulldogs shook off what coach Stacey Segura called a midseason funk to topple the Seahawks in Southcentral Conference action Friday.
Nikiski won 25-12, 21-25, 25-10, 21-25 and 15-13 to move to 11-0 overall and 9-0 in the conference.
Segura said she sensed the lull last weekend at the Grizzly Invitational and then this week in practice.
“That win helped us feel better about ourselves and get back in the swing of things,” Segura said. “There were times during the game we showed we were coming out of our slump, and also times where it still looked like we were in a midseason funk.
“But, overall, we won. We were behind the whole time in the fifth game until we started calming down and making the right choices when we had to.”
Bethany Carstens had 11 kills and two blocks for the Bulldogs, while Kaitlyn Johnson had 15 digs and three aces. Also, Emma Wik had seven aces, Melanie Sexton had 21 digs and three aces, Ashlee Tiner had four kills and two blocks, Jamie Yerkes had five kills, Rylee Jackson had two blocks and Kelsey Clark had 29 digs.
Segura said Yerkes was the go-to hitter and Tiner did a good job of getting blocks she normally doesn’t get and working around Seward’s tall middle block.
Grace 3, Homer 0
The host Grizzlies swept Homer 25-18, 25-14 and 26-24 in Southcentral Conference action Friday.
For Homer (2-8 in the league), Laura Inama had 13 digs and four kills, Marina Carroll had 12 digs and three blocks, and Brianna Hetrick had 19 digs, seven assists and five aces.
Seward 3, Homer 0
The host Seahawks notched a 28-26, 25-19 and 25-23 victory over the Mariners on Saturday in Southcentral Conference action. Hetrick had 18 assists and five aces, while Karmyn Gallios had 10 digs and three blocks, and Kelli Bishop had 20 digs and four kills.
Homer, now 2-9 in the league, is off until the Dimond-Service tournament this weekend.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman sports editor Jeremiah Bartz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Clarion staff contributed to this report.