The host Soldotna volleyball team delivered a near wire-to-wire victory over Nikiski in nonleague action Tuesday, winning 25-11, 25-13 and 27-25.
The Stars (3-0 overall, 1-0 Northern Lights Conference) didn’t trail until late in the third game, when the Bulldogs took a 25-24 lead before losing the final three points.
“I thought the girls played well in all phases of the game,” SoHi coach Bruce King said. “They passed well, communicated with each other and played good defense.”
Senior libero Kylee Woodford paced the Stars with 46 digs. Kaycee Munn had 12 kills and Sydney Goggia added 10 kills on a night the contest was never really in doubt.
SoHi won 16 of the final 20 points in the first game to turn a 9-7 lead into a 25-11 triumph, thanks to a string of five straight service points by Munn and six more from junior Heidi Westerman, who also had eight aces and a team-high 23 assists.
Game 2 took on a similar dynamic as the Stars used a 12-2 run to pull away after calling a timeout with a 13-11 advantage.
Woodford said the key to winning the opening two games was solid passing.
“When we get good passes, it sets up the point for us,” she said.
It looked as if the Stars would cruise in the third game after taking a 20-10 lead, but the Bulldogs answered.
Nikiski took 11 of the next 13 points to pull within 22-21 and eventually evened the score at 24. Sienna Wallis gave her squad its only lead of the match when she tapped the ball over the net and into free space with teammate Rachel Thompson on serve.
However, SoHi would take the next three rallies, sealing the win when Nikiski was called for an infraction at the net with the score 26-25.
Despite the loss, Nikiski coach Amber Olivia-Douglas was pleased with her unit’s effort.
“They would have crumbled in that situation last year,” Olivia-Douglas said of trailing 20-10 in the third game. “This year, they are ready. They are pumped up.”
It was a balanced effort from the Stars, who featured more firepower up the middle and on the outside.
Munn, who also had 21 digs, and Goggia combined for 22 kills. Kaillee Skjold chipped in with seven kills.
King said it was nice to play with the lead, but that the 2011 squad is comfortable in most situations.
“It doesn’t seem to matter with this team,” the coach said of playing with an advantage. “It doesn’t really make a difference for them.”
If there was a weak spot for the Stars on Tuesday, it came in the third game when they let the Bulldogs creep back to even the score.
When it comes to closing out matches, Woodford said the most important thing is to remain focused.
“We just need to play with intensity and be a little more consistent,” she said. “But the team did a really good job tonight. We played well.”
Olivia-Douglas credited libero Minna Bogard for playing a solid match and said Taylor Calderwood was strong on both sides of the ball.
As for the comeback bid, the coach called it a sign the Bulldogs are more mature than last season’s squad.
Rather than melting down, the coach added, the players stuck together.
“They did a really good job of managing their emotions,” Olivia-Douglas said. “SoHi is an excellent team, so it was just really good for our girls to be able to play against them.”
SoHi hosts Seward at 6 p.m. Friday and Grace Christian, the defending Class 3A state champions, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Nikiski, meanwhile, travels to Barrow for a tournament beginning Friday.