The upset-minded Kenai Central volleyball team had won the first set 25-15 and the Kardinals student body was at full throat.
Wasilla coach Josie Cannon had been here before, and it didn’t end pretty.
Last season, the Warriors played the Kards on a Friday night and Kenai pulled out a five-set victory in front of frenzied students starting a homecoming weekend.
But this Friday, the Warriors steadied and clipped off 25-23, 25-20 and 25-13 victories to move to 8-0 in the Northern Lights Conference and 10-2 overall.
The Kards are at 6-5 overall and 2-5 in the conference after bouncing back for a 25-23, 14-25, 25-15 and 25-20 victory over NLC foe Palmer on Saturday at Kenai Middle School.
“They played like crafty veterans,” Cannon said of her squad, which has nine seniors in the starting rotation. “They adjusted what we asked them to adjust and stayed calm under pressure.”
The first game belonged to Abby Beck’s cannon of a top-spin, jump serve. Beck went on an extended run of points that put the Kards up 18-6 and the game was basically over.
It was hard to say which was more booming during the run, Beck’s serve or the approving, body-painted students.
“Our crowd is so fun,” Kenai coach Tracie Beck said. “It is so fun for us to play in front of them.”
In the second game, Wasilla’s Emily Rushing had a kill to give her squad at 24-21 lead, but the Warriors missed a serve and Cierra King had a stuff block to bring the Kards within 24-23.
However, a bad set on the next point gave the Warriors the win.
“They wanted it so bad,” Beck said. “They love to play and it shows.
“Sometimes, they want it so bad, they get in their own way.”
Cannon said her squad was gradually able to control the match with solid passing on serve-receive and defense, which opened up options on the attack.
Olivia Vincent, at 6-foot-3, had 11 kills, while Andraia Bella had seven kills and Maggie Zwolinski had 19 assists and three aces.
“It was a team effort — really, truly a team effort,” Cannon said. “We had to pass the ball on serve-receive and play good defense, and both those things take the team.”
Kenai again hung around in the third game, cutting Wasilla’s lead to 21-19 on a kill by Emily Koziczkowski, but Wasilla pulled away for a 25-20 victory punctuated by a Rushing tip kill.
In the fourth game, Kenai’s troubles on serve-receive led to the 25-13 loss.
Beck said the match showed Kenai’s potential and its main challenge. In the first three games, the Kards didn’t let mistakes dampen their energy.
“They are such an amazing group of kids,” Beck said. “Let’s just play like we love it, and let the rest sort itself out.”
But in the fourth game, mistakes drained energy.
“It’s an important thing in life, not just volleyball,” Beck said. “How do you respond to adversity when it comes?”
Abby Beck had 12 digs, nine kills and seven aces, while Koziczkowski had five kills and three stuff blocks, Cierra King had three kills and three stuff blocks, and Caleigh Jensen had five kills.
Saturday, coach Beck said her squad did an even better job in carrying positive energy through the match.
“It was just fun,” Beck said. “They did the best they possibly could for every ball. All I ask is that they leave it all out there on the court and I felt like they did that today.”
Beck had 12 kills, 20 digs and nine aces, while Koziczkowski had three kills, King had six aces and Jensen had four kills and three aces.
Also for the Kards, Bethany Coghill had 18 assists and Patricia Catacutan had four aces.
The Kardinals host Nikiski at 6 p.m. Monday. The game is a fundraiser for breast cancer.
Palmer 3, Soldotna 2
The visiting Moose notched a 28-30, 25-17, 18-25, 25-15 and 15-10 NLC victory Friday against the Stars.
SoHi fell to 6-3 in the conference and 10-3 overall.
Stars coach Sheila Kupferschmid said the match was important as her team fights for the second seed, and a bye, at the conference tournament.
“We’re right in there and the kids knew it,” Kupferschmid said. “They brought a lot of passion and heart to the floor.
“They worked very hard, and I’m proud of the team’s effort.”
It was the third game in three nights for the Stars.
“That’s a difficult schedule to play three matches in a row and have the energy to play that fifth set,” Kupferschmid said. “That was a gut check for our kids tonight and I’m proud of the effort.”
The coach said seniors Taylor Earll, Drewe Zeek and Abi Tuttle provided good leadership, with Tuttle doing a good job filling in for the injured Shaylynn Zener at libero.
Kupferschmid said Ituau Tuisaula, only a freshman and playing on a torn anterior cruciate ligament, continues to come of age and show she’s one of the region’s top hitters.
Tuisaula led with 12 kills, while Drewe Zeek had nine and Kodi Gillivary and Ella Stenga had six apiece.
Tuisaula also had five blocks, while Zeek had four and Aliann Schmidt had three. Cally Christianson led with 16 service points, while Tuttle had 13, McGillivary and Zeek had nine, and Tuisaula had seven.
SoHi hosts Seward at Soldotna Prep on Tuesday, at 6 p.m.
Nikiski 3, Redington 0
The host Bulldogs celebrated senior night Friday with a Southcentral Conference sweep of the Huskies. The scores were 25-8, 25-6 and 25-9.
Redington is in the early stages of its program. Nikiski coach Stacey Segura, whose squad is now 9-2 in the league and 9-4 overall, said that worked out because she was able to get seniors playing time.
Seniors Amy Porter and Lauren Ryan came up from junior varsity for the game. Porter had five aces and two kills, while Ryan had five digs.
“All the seniors got to play and it was really exciting and fun for all of them,” Segura said.
The other seniors are Ayla Pitt with four aces and six kills, Brianna Vollertsen with five kills, Dessy Napoka with seven digs, Emily Hensley with 11 assists, four aces and three kills, and Maddy Williams with six aces and three kills.
“I’ll really miss the seniors,” Segura said. “This year, we have a special group of girls. They’re great kids and good leaders. I’m proud of them.”
Nikiski will play at Kenai Central at 6 p.m. Monday. The event is a fundraiser for breast cancer.
Homer 3, Houston 1
The Mariners notched a Southcentral Conference victory over the Hawks on Friday in Homer by scores of 24-26, 25-12, 25-18 and 25-21.
It was senior night, and coach Kristie Mastre said her squad got off to a bit of a slow start, but she was happy to get all the seniors in the match.
Seniors honored were Mary Hana Bowe, Malina Fellows, Sofia Ramirez-Clark and Izabelle Hagge. Elsie Smith was honored, but was out with injury. Karina Roach and Michelle Lee, a pair of JV players, were also honored and saw varsity time.
Raisa Basargin had a 12-point service run in the match.
“It was a really fun night,” Mastre said. “We got to honor them and there were a few tears shed.”
Homer 3, Redington 0
The host Mariners notched a Southcentral Conference victory over the Huskies on Saturday by scores of 25-16, 25-12 and 25-22.
Mastre said she was able to get some young players in the lineup and they responded, particularly the blocking of sophomore Anna Brock and the setting of freshman Kelli Bishop.
Seward 3, Houston 1
The host Seahawks collected a Southcentral Conference victory Saturday over the Hawks by scores of 19-25, 25-23, 25-23 and 25-14.
Seward moves to 8-3 in the conference and 8-5 overall.
Sophomore setter Ashley Jackson had six kills and eight aces, while senior Tia Miranda had four kills and six aces.
Seward coach Jaime Frederickson said her team started off slow, but added that her squad has learned persistence over the last few years.
“The team warmed up as we went on and got stronger and stronger,” Frederickson said. “I have faith in this team that they don’t let things get to them. They just keep plugging away.”
CIA volleyball drops 3 on weekend
The Cook Inlet Academy volleyball team dropped three matches at home Friday and Saturday.
Friday, the Eagles lost to Susitna Valley 25-8, 25-11 and 25-8. Also Friday, CIA lost to Wasilla Lake Christian 25-20, 23-25, 25-12 and 25-15. Saturday, CIA lost to Lumen Christi 25-21, 25-12, 23-25 and 25-14.