That is the new title that the Soldotna Stars volleyball team earned on Saturday in Kodiak, as they outperformed the Palmer Moose in a 3-1 win. Soldotna took the first two games 25-22 and 25-17, lost the third game 19-25, and took the title with a 25-19 fourth-game win.
As far as Soldotna head coach Bruce King knows, this marks Soldotna’s first outright conference title.
“It’s been our goal all season long to get that first-round bye, because that’s critical,” King said of the first-round bye in the NLC tourney. “The win over Kodiak was big because it meant that (Palmer) had to play before the championship.”
Soldotna had to go through the host school Kodiak in a 3-1 win on Friday in order to get to Saturday’s championship match, and Palmer had played earlier in the day Saturday in the losers’ bracket to face SoHi.
“Stamina became an issue, we noticed they were looking tired,” King said. “You could tell Palmer had picked up their intensity and their backs were against the wall. We had to put pressure on them in Game 4, and it went down to the wire, but this group, when it comes down to the end, they have what it takes to win.”
Soldotna stood solid on both defensive and offensive fronts, as Kaillee Skjold racked up 18 kills and 16 blocks (four for points), Heidi Westerman had 40 assists, 21 digs and four aces, and Natalie Kress had 35 digs. Kress had a eye-popping 57 digs in Friday’s semifinal match, and a combined 92 digs in both games.
Julie Litchfield notched 12 kills and 14 digs, Kaycee Munn got 11 kills and 16 digs, and Katelynn Kerkvliet had 11 kills.
The impressive stats don’t end there for Soldotna. After the competition, Skjold was named conference MVP, and Westerman, Munn and Kress were named to the Northern Lights Conference First Team.
“All four of those kids had great tournaments,” King said.
Palmer was led by Macey Buresh with 40 assists and Elliot Perkins with 20 kills and seven aces. The Moose were able to grab third-place honors by defeating Kodiak 3-0.
In addition, King received Coach of the Year honors.
“This team was easy to coach, so it’s really a reflection of their efforts,” he said. “First off, they come to practice every day to work hard and make themselves better, and the senior leadership is important.”
Soldotna will now enter the state tournament next weekend as the No. 1 seed from the conference, facing off with No. 2 seed from the Cook Inlet Conference.
MVP — Kaillee Skjold, Soldotna
Coach of the Year — Bruce King, Soldotna
Heidi Westerman, Soldotna; Elliott Perkins, Palmer; Maryann Zmuda, Colony; Kaycee Munn, Soldotna; Hannah Wandersee, Kodiak; Natalie Kress, Soldotna; Lilly Cullers, Palmer; Allison Leigh, Colony; Macey Buresh, Palmer.
Carissa Cannon, Kodiak; Mariah McNamarra, Palmer; Cassie Ross, Kenai; RJ Aquino, Kodiak.
Ashleyn Dorn, Wasilla; Danielle Willis, Kodiak; Olivia Bennett, Kodiak; Brooke Deans, Colony; Megan Pyles, Kodiak; Cassidy Edwards, Wasilla.