One of the area’s hottest prep rivalries will have a cool ending tonight at Skyview High School.
Following the Soldotna-Skyview volleyball match at 6 p.m., there will be a social featuring cake and ice cream in the Skyview commons to honor Panthers volleyball coach Sheila Kupferschmid.
The four seniors on Skyview’s team — Cheyanne Laber, Casey Neill, Cat Schoessler and Sam Reynolds — also will be honored tonight.
Randy Neill, in his ninth year as the principal at Skyview, said that the school’s longtime coaches will be honored over the course of the year as the school prepares to close its doors at the end of this school year. Kupferschmid is the first coach up.
“It’s just to celebrate their commitment over the years to Skyview, and the success that they have had,” Neill said.
Kupferschmid took over the Skyview program in 1999 and quickly fashioned one of the better programs in the state.
In 2000, Skyview lost in the Northern Lights Conference title match to Wasilla and finished sixth at the Class 4A tournament.
In 2001, Skyview lost in the Class 4A state title match in four games.
In 2002, the Panthers won the NLC tourney and finished fourth in the state.
“She’s dedicated year-round to the program,” Principal Neill said. “She’s working all summer long and through the whole year with open gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“She’s paid only during the volleyball season. She volunteers her time above and beyond that.”
As Skyview decreased in size over the years, it became more difficult to compete with larger schools on a year-in, year-out basis.
But in 2006, the Panthers finished 14-0 in nontournament play during the regular season. In 2008, Skyview swept Palmer in the third-place match at the NLC tourney to qualify for the 4A tournament, where the Panthers finished fifth.
Last season, the Panthers moved to the smaller Class 3A division and quickly found success. Skyview won the Southcentral Conference tourney and finished fourth at the Class 3A state tournament.
Neill has had daughters Casey and Megan play for Kupferschmid, so he appreciates her coaching as a parent, as well as a principal.
“She just strives for the best in kids,” Neill said. “She expects high standards, morals and ethics.
“She brings out the best in kids because she has high expectations.”
This year, the Panthers are again rolling, taking a 12-0 record into the nonconference match against the Stars.
While the Skyview-Soldotna rivalry has dimmed in many sports due to the Stars’ increasing dominance, the volleyball rivalry has continued to burn brightly.
That was especially the case before Skyview moved to Class 3A last season. When both schools were in the NLC, the schools would meet twice during the regular season, then often match up again at the conference tournament.
“The idea is to have a lot of people there, and that’s why we are doing it against Soldotna,” Neill said. “Sheila has also coached at the middle school over the years, so she has coached both Soldotna and Skyview players.
“She also has coached Midnight Sun (volleyball club), so she’s been involved with both schools, and in the whole community.”
Neill said it would be great to have former players, parents and anyone with a connection to Kupferschmid attend the match.
And Neill said that Kupferschmid would be the first to say the seniors being honored tonight is the most important thing.
“She’s always about giving credit to the kids,” he said.