For the first time this season, the Nikiski volleyball team found itself playing to five games, and they came out on top, beating Southcentral Conference rival Seward 3-2 on Friday night in Nikiski. The victory also capped senior night for the Bulldogs.
Seward won the first game 25-19, and Nikiski answered with two game wins of 25-18 and 25-9. Although the Seahawks would force a fifth game with a 25-13 win in game four, Nikiski held them off to win the finale 15-12.
"After the first game, I was nervous and thinking that this team can actually beat us and we're not all that we think we are," Nikiski senior Bailey Buchholz said.
"We got scared there for a minute," Senior Sienna Wallis said. "It was a reality check for us, because this is the first time we've gone to five games all year."
Nikiski put up an 8-1 scoring streak, including key kill points from Buchholz and Taylor Calderwood, in the second game, which helped them to the win.
Successful blocking played a role for Nikiski in the third game, in which the 'Dogs put up a 13-3 streak to end the game that Buchholz punctuated with a hard kill shot.
In game four, it was Seward that found the scoring streaks, outscoring Nikiski 13-2 to win the game. Senior Tessa Adelmann put up a flurry of kills and aces to showcase her strength. Adelmann notched six kills total.
"She was all over the court," Seward coach Carri Fisher said. "She's a great passer, digger, blocker, she can do it all."
In the winner-take-all game five, Seward charged out to a 5-1 lead, but it was not enough to hold off Nikiski. Led by a blocking duo of Buchholz and Jodi Cook, the Bulldogs put up an 8-1 streak that was enough to win. Wallis provided the kill point that ended the night.
"I think the girls started to talk more, their passes were getting closer to the net, which helped us with our offense because we were able to hit the ball," Nikiski coach Stacey Segura said. "Whenever we're not able to hit the ball, things tend to go wrong, and we get sloppy. Controlling the passes and getting it to the setter is what helped our execution."
Rachel Thompson racked up 40 assists and five aces on the night to lead the Bulldogs. Buchholz put up 14 kills and six blocks, Wallis had 10 kills and seven blocks, libero Paris Davis recorded 15 digs, Taylor Calderwood had 15 kills, and Rebekah Krogseng had five kills.
"(Our coach) told us to not mentally break down, because that's what we usually do," Buchholz said. "We were down four to one in the last game and we pulled out of it, which we can't usually do very easily, and she was telling us we can do it."
Senior Gretchen Lindquist led Seward with seven kills, while teammate Brianna Honebein had six kills and Ashley Whiteshield had three kills.
Fisher said the reason Seward was able to hang around as long as they did was from being aggressive.
"Every time they come out timid is when they start losing, so as long as they stay aggressive we'll be able to pull through," Fisher said. "We just came out more aggressive in those games that we won. It's about getting out there and hitting the ball, not being scared of blocks, and just playing hard."
Nikiski has six seniors on their volleyball teams this year, which include Buchholz, Wallis, Davis, Calderwood, Lacy Elsey and Ashley Monroe.
As the season nears the region competition, Nikiski holds an 8-2 Southcentral Conference record, and 11-3 overall.