The Nikiski volleyball team reeled off three straight sets after losing the opener to earn a nonconference victory Tuesday over host Kenai Central. The scores were 24-26, 25-23, 25-21 and 25-10.
Minna Bogard paced the Bulldogs with 14 digs, while teammate Cydney Spurgeon added three kills.
Nikiski coach Amber Olivia-Douglas said her squad's role players keyed the win.
"When we had players who were struggling, we had a bench that we were confident in," Olivia-Douglas said. "I was really proud of our bench tonight. They were a key support in what was happening."
Kenai Central took the first game by winning nine of the final 11 points, overcoming a 22-17 deficit. There were six ties and four lead changes in the opener, with the Kards sealing it when two of their own blocked a Sienna Wallis spike attempt with Nikiski trailing 25-24.
Games 2 and 3 also were close, but it was the Bulldogs who prevailed. In the second set, Nikiski erased a 23-21 deficit by winning the final four points.
The squads were tied at 18, 20, 21 and 23 before Nikiski pulled away.
It was vital, Olivia-Douglas said, for the Bulldogs to win the second frame.
"It's always hard to come back from being down two games and hold your mental toughness through three games of volleyball," the coach said.
There were 10 ties in the third set before Nikiski notched five of the final six points, turning a 20-all tie into a 25-21 triumph.
That set the stage for a smooth Game 4 as the Bulldogs took a 9-4 lead and never allowed the Kards closer than five.
Lauren Schams led the Kards with seven kills, while Briana King added four. Justice English posted a team-best 15 assists, and Sarah Rawson tallied 17 digs.
Kenai Central coach John Kennedy was impressed with the entire squad, but said the Kards have a lot to learn.
"We had a chance to win those games," Kennedy said. "We are getting better, it's just taking a while for us to gain the experience we need to play at a high level."
The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Kards, who host Kodiak at 5:30 p.m. Friday and 12:30 p.m. Saturday. One of the matches will count toward Northern Lights Conference play, while the other will do down as a nonconference contest.
Meanwhile, Nikiski opens Southcentral Conference play against ACS on the road at 5:30 p.m. Friday. The Bulldogs then visit defending Class 3A state champion Grace Christian at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Olivia-Douglas, crediting her seniors, said it was important for the squad to gain momentum heading into conference competition.
"The girls needed a win to boost their sense of self on the floor," she said. "It's a really good boost going into the conference play."
Skyview 3, Homer 1
The Panthers improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the NLC by defeating the Mariners 25-17, 24-26, 25-18 and 25-13 Tuesday.
Amanda McDowell had 19 kills, six blocks, 10 service points and five digs to Skyview, which received three service points, three blocks, one dig and 10 kills from Marlee Cunningham.
Also for Skyview, Karlie Self came in with 15 service points and five digs. Teammate Britanie Whipple tallied five service points, three blocks and five digs to go with four kills.
Mary Hauptman had seven digs and four service points.
Naomi McMullen had seven digs at libero in her first action of the season for the Panthers.
"We had a lot of balance tonight, but Amanda McDowell turned it on at the net," Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid said.
The win means the Panthers will be undefeated when they face Soldotna (6-2) Sept. 20.
However, Kupferschmid said the squad needs to improve in many areas if it expects to compete with the state's best.
"There are areas of our game, if we're going to be able to compete at a higher level with better teams, we are going to have to improve," the coach said. "It's just the way it is."