The Soldotna volleyball team is headed to the playoffs on a positive note.
Four days after their chances were dashed for a No. 1 seed to the postseason in a loss to Skyview, the Stars swept host Kenai Central 25-14, 25-16 and 25-18 in the regular-season finale Saturday.
SoHi moves to 10-4 overall and 6-4 in the Northern Lights Conference Southern Division. Kenai Central is winless in the conference.
With the NLC tournament beginning Thursday at Colony, SoHi coach Bruce King knows what his squad must do well if it hopes to advance.
“Passing and defense always wins,” King said. “In conference tournaments, you can have all the big hitters you want, but if you can’t pass or play defense, you can’t win.”
Kaillee Skjold paced the Stars with nine blocks and eight kills, while Heidi Westerman had 11 assists and six digs.
Reserve libero Natalie Kress posted a team-best 11 digs as she received significant playing time in Games 2 and 3. Kress was among a slew of second-stringers who saw major action.
“Today we got the reserves a lot of time to play, and they responded well,” King said.
Efficient passing, especially on service-receive, was a point of emphasis for the Stars. In a five-set loss to Skyview on Tuesday, SoHi failed to pass with consistent accuracy.
Although King saw improvement against Kenai Central, the coach wasn’t entirely satisfied.
“I think they did better today, but we are still going to have to pick it up another notch for the conference tournament,” King said.
The match was never in doubt.
SoHi led the entire way to handily win the opening two frames, using a 15-7 run to take Game 1 and an 18-9 run to capture Game 2.
Kenai Central took a 12-8 lead in the third game, but fell apart after senior outside hitter Lauren Schams went down with an ankle injury.
The injury came in the midst of a 10-1 run by the Stars, who rode an 18-13 lead to the win.
Coach John Kennedy said the injury to Schams, who finished with a team-high six kills, deflated the Kardinals.
“When we lost Lauren it kind of took the sails out from us,” Kennedy said. “She’s a very good hitter and she’s a senior.”
It was senior night for Kenai Central, meaning it was the final home game for veterans Schams, Briana King and Gretta Kennedy.
Raquelle Reynolds added four kills for the Kards, who also received three kills from King and 15 digs from Cassie Ross.
Kenai Central enters the conference tournament as a No. 4 seed and will face the top seed from the NLC Northern Division.
A Kards postseason win is long shot given their regular-season record, but Kennedy said the team is headed in the right direction.
“What I was most impressed with was it was the most consistent three games we’ve had of the season,” Kennedy said of Saturday’s match. “We actually had moments where we did real well. That was a plus for us.”
SoHi, meanwhile, faces the No. 3 seed from the NLC Northern Division in the opening round of the conference tournament.
Brackets have yet to be released.
Regardless of the opponent, the Stars are searching for a groove in the passing game.
“Without a good pass you can’t get a good set, then you can’t get a good swing,” Kress said.