A strong start to the 2015 volleyball season had the Soldotna Stars ready for their Northern Lights Conference opener with Kodiak, an opponent that has given SoHi fits in recent years.
Once again, however, the Bears finished with the upper hand with a razor-sharp 3-2 win over SoHi, winning with scores of 25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 22-25 and 15-5 Friday night in Soldotna.
The Stars were then swept by the Bears on Saturday afternoon with scores of 25-22, 25-23 and 25-18. Kodiak ended the weekend a perfect 4-0 against Peninsula competition.
“I’m guessing Kodiak is probably pretty tired,” quipped coach Kupferschmid.
Kupferschmid praised her team for continuing to jell as a unit and playing well, even if the scores have not ended their way. Kupferschmid added that Makenna Rosin in particular had a solid weekend.
“A few calls here and there can make a difference,” Kupferschmid said. “We’re still in the process of molding ourselves.”
Soldotna dropped to 0-2 in the conference and 4-2 with the pair of weekend losses.
On Friday, Kodiak coach Amy Willis said the Game 5 finale proved to her that her team is not one to crack under pressure. After giving up the first point on a powerful kill shot from SoHi senior Makenna Rosin, Kodiak answered with three straight points.
Later in the game, after the Stars scored two out of three points to close the gap to 6-4, Kodiak burst forth with a 9-1 streak with help from the powerful left arm of senior outside hitter Kalameli Matautia, who made her presence known at the front of the net. The Bears scored the final six points to take the game and the match.
“I think my kids are pretty strong-minded, they don’t fall apart when it gets dicey,” Willis said.
Matautia ended the game with 23 kills and four blocks, while junior setter Tracy Gatter had 41 total assists. Also, junior libero Mikayla Lirette had 24 digs and senior middle Richella Walker notched 12 kills.
Willis said senior outside hitter Mica Riina suffered a sprained ankle Thursday against Kenai, which forced her to make a few adjustments to her lineup.
“We had to move some people around and I finally needed to go back to where we were strongest,” Willis said. “We left her in there, let her nurse her ankle a little bit, and we ran our offense a little differently, but everyone else was flowing so well in our offense, it didn’t matter.”
Last year, the Bears went 7-3 in conference play and were the ones to knock SoHi out of the conference tournament on the first day. Willis added that as stressful as it is keeping a team competing at a high level to beat a similarly talented squad like SoHi, she enjoys the close competition with Soldotna coach Sheila Kupferschmid.
“Sheila runs a really great program,” Willis said. “She’s just got talent at every level, and it’s impressive.”
Junior outside hitter Judah Aley led the SoHi attack with eight kills, senior middles Sylvia Tuisaula and McKenna Rosin had six kills apiece, and sophomore libero Shaylynn Zener provided 16 digs.
But the mistakes and miscommunications that occasionally popped up for SoHi eventually became too much to overcome.
After dropping a close opening game by a mere two points, SoHi battle back in the second to tie the match at one apiece, although it did not come easy. The Stars opened up a 10-6 lead with help from a few Tuisaula points at the front of the net. From there, SoHi managed to halt any Kodiak momentum with solid defensive play.
In the third game, Kodiak jumped out to a 13-8 lead before Soldotna coach Kupferschmid called a timeout to reorganize her troops.
Kodiak continued to charge and pushed the lead up to 23-17 at one point. However, SoHi reeled off six straight points — several of them on Kodiak shots going astray — to tie the game at 23-all before Willis was the one to call timeout.
The 60-second break seemed to work, as Kodiak finished off the game win with two quick points, the last coming on a long pass that clipped the netting and dropped down to end SoHi’s charge.
In a case of deja vu, Kodiak found itself leading 13-8 again in the fourth game when Kupferschmid called timeout. Her words to the Stars worked, as SoHi went on a 10-2 tear to grab an 18-15 lead.
SoHi extended the lead to 23-19, then suffered a few anxious moments before ensnaring the 25-22 win to force a fifth, 15-point, game.
In the decider, Matautia made her mark with three crucial kills in the late going that helped Kodiak get the win.
Kodiak 3, Kenai 2
Kodiak wrapped up a weekend sweep of Peninsula teams with a close five-set victory Saturday night over Kenai, winning with scores of 27-29, 25-15, 25-15, 24-26 and 15-11.
Kenai coach Tracy Beck said Kodiak’s tough defensive play kept Kenai from its first Northern Lights Conference win, but is nevertheless pleased with the progress the Kardinals are making.
“It’s one more game than we got Thursday, so hopefully by regions we’ll win three games,” Beck said, referring to Thursday’s 3-1 loss to Kodiak.
“I’m just super proud of these girls, they played really hard.”
Junior Abby Beck led the Kenai charge with 20 kills, 16 digs and five aces, while teammate Alexis Baker had eight kills and 21 digs. Cori Holmes notched 20 digs, Alli Steinbeck had 30 assists, Emily Koziczkowski got five kills and Sierra King had four stuff blocks.
Nikiski 3, Houston 2
One day after suffering a head-scratching 3-0 loss to Grace Christian, the Bulldogs got back on the right track Friday night with a nailbiting win over Houston, winning with scores of 21-25, 25-11, 21-25, 25-12 and 15-9.
After giving up a late lead in Game 1 of Thursday night’s Southcentral Conference bout with Grace, Nikiski dropped the last two games by a combined score of 50-20.
Friday proved to be a fresh start for the Bulldogs.
“We were much better, it was drastically different from last night,” said Nikiski coach Stacey Segura.
Nikiski moved to 1-1 in conference play and 2-1 overall.
Melanie Sexton led Nikiski with 10 aces, all on serving, and teammate Ayla Pitt had 10 kills and four blocks. Emily Hensley provided 22 assists, Lauren O’Brien had 20 digs, Brianna Vollertson recorded six aces, and Bethany Carstens and Brittany Perry both added seven kills.
“My team had a choice to either make (Thursday) a positive and use it to make themselves better or dig themselves in a hole,” Segura said. “They definitely turned it around, I was really surprised at the difference.”
Nikiski 3, ACS 0
Following their Thursday night letdown against Grace Christian, the Bulldogs roared back with wins over Houston and ACS.
Nikiski swept ACS on Saturday with scores of 25-16, 25-19 and 25-16, improving to 2-1 in the Southcentral Conference.
“I definitely think we picked it up as the weekend went on,” said Nikiski coach Stacey Segura. “I think the girls took a step back and looked at what they could do to become better.”
ACS — winners over Grace and Houston this year — found trouble with Nikiski’s defense. Emily Hensley sent up 20 assists and Lauren O’Brien had 20 digs, while Zykiah Cooney notched 15 digs.
On offense, Brittany Perry scored five serving aces and five kills, Briana Vollertson had three serving aces, Ayla Pitt recorded six kills and four blocks, Bethany Carstens had five kills and Melani Sexton sent out five kills.
Grace 3, Homer 0
The Mariners dropped a Southcentral Conference matchup to Grace Christian on Friday night in Homer.
The Grizzlies notched the three-game sweep with scores of 25-14, 25-17 and 25-10.
Homer 3, Houston 2
The Mariners tallied a Southcentral Conference victory over Houston on Saturday, twice rallying from behind with scores of 20-25, 25-16, 23-25, 25-21 and 15-13.
Homer dropped to 1-3 overall with the loss.
ACS 3, Seward 1
The Lions notched a Southcentral Conference victory over host Seward on Friday.
Grace 3, Seward 0
The Grizzlies completed a sweep of Peninsula schools Saturday with a three-game win over Seward, winning with scores of 25-12, 25-13 and 25-17.