The Soldotna Stars finished off the Northern Lights Conference regular season with a sweep over the Kenai Central Kardinals on Saturday afternoon in Kenai, with game wins of 25-9, 25-16 and 25-14.
The Stars end the regular season with a 9-1 conference record, and 14-2 overall. The Kards finish 0-10 in the NLC. Palmer also is 9-1 in the league.
The Moose and Stars split in head-to-head play this year. SoHi coach Bruce King said his best guess is the top seed for the NLC tourney will be decided by a coin flip.
“One of the things we worked on was our jump serve, hoping that we will be able to use it in the conference tournament next week as well,” King said. “And we got some younger players and players that haven’t had much time this year some minutes today.”
Senior Natalie Kress from Soldotna had 16 digs and four serve aces, Heidi Westerman provided 25 assists, Kaillee Skjold had four blocks and 12 kills, Katelynn Kerkvliet had six digs, four blocks, and six kills, Julie Litchfield had six assists and five kills, and Makayla Wong had six digs.
Kenai was led by sophomore Dacia Shier with six kills, and teammate junior Justice English had 13 assists and two aces, and sophomore Kiana Harding provided four assists.
“The girls worked to the best of their abilities, coming against a strong program,” Kenai head coach Tracie Beck said. “SoHi has some great seniors and a program that’s developed and has been there for a while, so it’s frustrating to lose, but I think that when you lose to a great team and your team doesn’t fall apart, those are components that are very positive and we’re going to continue to focus the next two days on regions.”
Soldotna was able to cruise to the first win on the heels of a 13-2 run, and sealed it with a kill from Skjold.
The Kards came out strong in the second game, getting kills from Shier and Addison Cheek, but couldn’t resist a 15-3 streak from Soldotna.
Soldotna never trailed in the third game, riding the powerful serves from Kerkvliet, Skjold and Litchfield.
“We’re on a pretty long winning streak, so I think we’re preparing pretty well for the tournament,” King said. “You never know when you show up there who is going to play tough, and I like where we’re at right now.
“We know our conference opponents pretty well, but we’ve also played a lot of tough tournament volleyball against some of the tougher teams in the state.”
Beck said the team realized the task of beating Soldotna was a heavy one, but was pleased with the overall performance of Kenai.
“Some of the improvements we’ve had over the season were really evident today, and I really appreciate the seniors today for sticking with the program, even though we haven’t won a lot,” Beck said. “We put the ball in, but didn’t strategically push their serve-receive at all, so when we start moving the ball around, like most teams that we play do, we get more points, so I think that was key (in the second game).”
Both teams enter the conference tournament next week in Kodiak with hope of qualifying for the state tournament.
“I’m looking forward to flying instead of taking a ferry,” Beck said.
The Stars beat the Kings in three games Friday night in Soldotna, with scores of 25-18, 25-14, and 25-18.
Kress recorded 23 digs, while Skjold had eight blocks (three stuff), eight digs and 12 kills. Julie Litchfield had nine digs, nine assists and five kills, Katelynn Kerkvliet had six blocks and six kills, and Heidi Westerman provided 15 assists.