Stars top Kardinals on Dig Pink Night

SoHi, community raise money for Side-Out Foundation

A raucous crowd dressed for the occasion saw the host Soldotna volleyball team shine on Dig Pink night.


The Stars, wearing special black and pink uniforms on a night when money was raised for breast cancer awareness and the Side-Out Foundation, swept rival Kenai Central 25-12, 25-15 and 25-13 in Northern Lights Conference action Tuesday.

SoHi moves to 7-3 overall and 3-3 in the NLC. Kenai Central has yet to win a match.

But coaches and players agreed following the match the evening's theme was more important than the score.

"It's all about the Side-Out Foundation and making a contribution from this high school," SoHi coach Bruce King said. "And also, it's great to have all these fans here to support us. The fans were crazy tonight."

The Side-Out Foundation was established in 2004 as a way for volleyball coaches and players to raise awareness for cancer.

This was the third time the Stars hosted a Dig Pink event, the first coming in 2008 and the second being in 2009. SoHi raised about $6,000 in 2008, the fifth-most of any high school nationwide, but the number dropped in 2009.

King expects the money brought in Tuesday to equal or better the figure of 2008, though neither he nor the schools' athletic director, Galen Brantley Jr., had the official number available following the match.

What wasn't in doubt was the energy in the building, led by a boisterous student section that far exceeded the average turnout for regular-season matches.

Nearly every supporter donned something pink - T-shirts, headbands, shorts. And some nearly skipped clothing all together - they painted their chests and legs.

"It was crazy. We've never had anything like that," SoHi senior Kylee Woodford said. "We were all a little shaky at first. It was kind of hard to get used to, but we stuck through it."

Woodford paced the Stars with 23 digs, while teammate Kaillee Skjold added 11 kills and four blocks.

The Stars' lone deficit came when they trailed 1-0 in Game 1, but a 7-0 run quickly swayed the momentum.

The Kardinals never got closer than 13-8 in the opening game as the Stars passed with accuracy to set up the attack.

While no Kenai Central player had more than two kills, SoHi's Katelynn Kerkvliet added seven to Skjold's 11.

"The bottom line is they played very well," Kenai Central coach John Kennedy said of SoHi. "They dominated every aspect of the match."

Game 2 was never really in doubt after the Stars opened with seven straight points.

The Kards crept to within 10-8, but the rally was thwarted when the Stars went on an 8-0 run.

In the third game, SoHi turned a 2-all tie into a 10-3 lead and never looked back.

Emily Schneider, who had five service aces for SoHi, said quality passes and well-placed kills keyed the win.

"That really helped today," she said.

SoHi also benefited from a clean bill of health as outside hitter Kaycee Munn returned to the lineup for her first conference match after missing a loss to Skyview last week because of a concussion.

Throw in 20 games at last weekend's Spiketacular Tournament in Anchorage, in which the squad placed ninth, and King believes the Stars are beginning to mesh.

Woodford agreed, although she said there's always room for improvement.

"We're doing OK right now, but we need to step it up a little," she said.

Kenai Central struggled with serves and couldn't handle SoHi's attack, but Kennedy was pleased with the effort.

Since the squad is full of young players who have little varsity experience, the coach isn't surprised by the struggles.

"I saw more determination, more heart than we've had in a while - kids throwing their bodies around," Kennedy said. "There were a few moments where I thought, ‘Wow, we would never have had that three days ago.'"

SoHi is now 3-0 in Dig Pink contests.

On Tuesday, the Stars also received strong efforts from Heidi Westerman, who had nine digs and 13 assists, and Sydney Goggia, who had five service aces and four blocks.

Meanwhile, Kennedy had never coached a Dig Pink match before Tuesday.

The coach said Kenai Central hopes to participate in future events. The Kards host Wasilla at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

"Everybody wins in this case. We didn't win the match, but we won something. That's what I want to tell the girls," Kennedy said. "This is just a game. There are a lot of other things that are far more important."


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