Before the final, winner-take-all Game 5 was set to begin, the Nikiski and Cordova volleyball teams looked like two completely different squads. The Wolverines huddled together laughing and cracking jokes, while the Bulldogs surrounded coach Stacey Segura with a more subdued and serious attitude.
But the differences between the two Southcentral Conference teams on the court were almost nonexistant, as Nikiski pulled through in the final game to beat Cordova 3 games to 2. The contest went back and forth all night, with Nikiski winning with scores of 25-23, 17-25, 25-21, 24-26 and 15-7.
“That was rough. I am definitely glad that game is over with,” said Nikiski coach Stacey Segura.
Nikiski was a game point away from winning the whole thing in Game 4, leading 24-22, but dropped four straight points to Cordova that tied it up and sent it to a last-chance game to 15 points.
“To be honest, our passing was terrible the entire game,” Segura said. “Our defense wasn’t communicating, they weren’t moving their feet, and that last game they really buckled down.”
Setter Rachel Thompson put in a strong effort with 25 assists, outside hitter Rebekah Krogseng notched 10 kills, middle hitter Jodi Cook hit 15 kills and five serving aces, and libero Laura Hufford provided 28 digs.
With Thompson scrambling across the floor to set up plays, Cook and Krogseng were both able to blast crucial kills and shots that had the Cordova defensive unit on its toes.
Nikiski managed to pull away from a 22-all tie late in the first game — getting kills from Krogseng — to edge Cordova by two points.
In the second game, Cordova distanced itself with a strong, 14-1 run midway through to cruise to the easy win, buoyed from a strong service game of middle and outside hitters Haley Hoepfner and Cassi Septien.
Five lead changes punctuated the third set, which Nikiski won with a series of late kills from Cook. That set up a fiery battle in Game 4.
“I said that this was getting ridiculous and they really need to start winning,” Segura said. “Cordova is a scrappy team. It’s hard to play with teams like that because they throw things over and things start happening.”
In a set that featured a staggering 12 ties, Nikiski rallied from a 22-18 deficit with six straight points that set the Bulldogs up for game and match point. But the Hoepfner sisters from Cordova did not allow that to happen, as Haley served two straight balls that Nikiski couldn’t handle, and sister Sarah tipped it over the net for the win.
“They really wanted this one,” said Cordova coach Janelle Greenwood. “Their momentum really pushed them through.”
In the final and deciding game, Cordova scored the first three points to grab an early lead, but Nikiski fought back with blasts by Cook with Hufford serving. The Bulldogs managed to string together an 11-1 point streak that ultimately decided the game.
“We had Jodi Cook, who they couldn’t stop at all, so we were trying to use her as much as possible,” Segura said. “As much as we were getting the passes to Rachel we were using Jodi.
“I think they came out a little too confident today, and they thought they had it bagged, and they didn’t.”
Nikiski improves to 2-3 in the Southcentral Conference, 3-4 overall, and will be playing next at the West Spiketacular in Anchorage.