So much for home-floor advantage.
Before traveling to Skyview on Tuesday night, the Nikiski volleyball team had lost twice at home to the Panthers — once in the Shayna Pritchard Memorial Tournament and once in Southcentral Conference play.
The Bulldogs emphatically turned the tables on Tuesday, cruising past Skyview 25-20, 25-21 and 25-15. The sweep avenged a sweep by Skyview in Nikiski on Sept. 4.
The Bulldogs are now 4-1 in the league and 6-1 in nontournament play, while Skyview is 4-2 and 4-3.
“We’ve had some challenges lately with them,” said Nikiski senior Taylor Calderwood, who had nine kills and four aces. “We focused on what we had to do to defeat Skyview.
“It’s really a good feeling to beat them.”
Calderwood said the focus leading up to the Skyview match was defense.
“Skyview knew how to find the holes in our defense,” Calderwood said. “We picked up balls better than we did before.”
Combine Nikiski’s improved defense with Skyview’s trouble on serve-receive, and the result is a match in which Nikiski led by at least eight points in every game.
“We have to be able to receive serve,” Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid said. “That’s an area that is crucial to winning.
“We have to control their serve and we didn’t do that tonight.”
In the first game, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 7-2 lead thanks to three service points by Rachel Thompson, who had 20 assists, and two from Rebekah Krogseng, who had five aces in the match. On those five service points by Thompson and Krogseng, Skyview was not able to get a return over the net three times.
Late in the match, Krogseng pushed the lead to 19-11 on four straight points, with Skyview unable to return two of those attempts.
A late Skyview rally then came up short. With the score 23-20, Sienna Wallis, who had 10 blocks and six kills, won a protracted joust at the net with a stuff block. Wallis then stepped back to the service line and hit a winner on game point.
“We work on serve every day in practice,” Calderwood said. “It seemed like everybody was hitting down on their serve harder than usual.”
Calderwood said winning the first game was important because it took the pressure off Nikiski. She kept that pressure off in the second game, when she had nine straight service points for a 17-4 game. The Panthers managed to get back to 22-18, but that was as close as they would get.
Except for little lulls after getting big leads in Games 1 and 2, Nikiski coach Stacey Segura said her squad did a great job keeping pressure on Skyview the entire match by serving tough, playing good defense and making sure every ball sent over the net was a dangerous ball.
“These girls are 100 percent better on defense than I thought they would be,” she said. “I thought we’d be an offensive team, but we turned out to be an offensive and defensive team.”
The Bulldogs did not relent in the third game. Six service points by Thompson put Nikiski up 7-1. The Panthers were unable to return three of those serves. Krogseng then added three more service points for an 11-2 lead, and Skyview never threatened after that.
Just as the Bulldogs pinpointed their weaknesses after losses to Skyview and remedied those weaknesses in practice, Kupferschmid said Tuesday could end up being a positive experience.
“This just goes back to practice,” Kupferschmid said. “We know what areas we need to work on.”
Kupferschmid said libero Casey Neill, who had nine digs and seven service points, had a solid match. Also for the Panthers, Marlee Cunningham had 10 kills, eight digs and four blocks, while Sam Reynolds had five kills, Hayley Ramsell had 19 assists, Holly Ramsell had six points and Cheyanne Laber had nine kills and five points.
Calderwood said the Bulldogs had a rough patch early in the season that was highlighted by the sweep at the hands of Skyview, but she said the team has come together since.
“We’re starting to play like a great team,” Segura said. “We’re not a good team anymore.”
Bailey Buchholz added 13 kills and four aces for the Bulldogs, who travel to Cordova for games Friday and Saturday.
Skyview travels to Seward on Tuesday for a 6:30 p.m. match.
Kenai 3, Homer 1
The Kardinals earned a long overdue win on their home court Tuesday evening, rallying to beat the Mariners in a non-conference match after losing the first game 25-18. Kenai won the final three games with scores of 26-24, 25-23 and 26-24.
Sophomore Sierra Hall racked up seven kills and three aces, junior Erica Tofte had five kills, four aces and two stuff blocks, junior Dacia Shier had 16 digs, and sophomore Kiana Harding had three blocks.
Kenai coach Tracie Beck said both setters, junior Justice English and senior Sarah Rawson, had great games.
“(Rawson) is setting for us, and she’s really stepped up her game,” Beck said.
Beck also said that the seniors on the team haven’t won a match since their sophomore season two years ago.
“(Tonight), in the first game, when it’s that close, you really know it’s anybody’s game, and it’s hard to convince a team that’s been beat down by losses so much to keep pushing,” Beck said. “When they played well and won the second game, they got a taste of winning, and for the third and fourth game, it was easier to convince them, and I just kept encouraging them.”
Kenai will travel to play Colony in a conference matchup on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Homer will be competing in the Grizzly Invite on Friday.
Soldotna 3, Seward 1
The Stars took a non-conference win on the road on Tuesday, winning the first two games 25-15 and 25-12, losing the third game 25-22, and finishing off with a 25-13 win in the final game.
Soldotna’s Natalie Kress had an impressive 33 digs, and teammate Emily Schneider had 21. Kaillee Skjold had 11 blocks and 16 kills, Heidi Westerman had 26 assists and Julie Litchfield had 14 assists as well.
Seward’s Gretchen Lindquist had five kills and two aces, Ashley VonBorstel had 14 assists, and Carrie Anderson notched five kills.
According to Seward coach Carrie Fisher, Seward had only one missed serve.
“They played really good defense, we had some long rallies, but we just couldn’t finish those rallies,” Fisher said. “There were just more mistakes on the Soldotna end in the third game, but our girls just got tired.”
There is a possibility that Seward will be traveling up to Houston on Thursday to make up for games lost to the recent flooding, but the Seahawks are certain to be playing Skyview next Tuesday.
Soldotna, now with a 7-2 overall record, travels to Palmer in an NLC game on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.