The Soldotna and Kenai Central volleyball teams open up the Northern Lights Conference tournament exactly the way they ended the regular season — playing against each other at Soldotna.
The Stars, the No. 3 seed, face the Kards, the No. 6 seed, at 3 p.m. today.
Kenai was swept by Soldotna on Sept. 17, but on Friday the Kards showed how much they improved by losing a nail-biter. The scores were 21-25, 25-19, 25-18 and 27-25.
“I’m excited to play Soldotna,” said Kenai coach Tracie Beck, whose squad finished 1-9 in the NLC. “I think we played well against them and this will give us another shot to do our best to beat them.”
Soldotna coach Emily Kenagy, whose team was 5-5 in the NLC, also is looking forward to the rematch.
“I think we learned a lot the other night,” she said. “We’ve had a chance to practice what we needed to work on.
“I think that game is a good matchup to start out with.”
The tournament also includes No. 1 seed Kodiak, No. 2 Palmer, No. 4 Colony and No. 5 Wasilla. The event is three days of double elimination to determine a top three that will advance to state.
The winner of the Kenai-SoHi match plays Palmer at 8 p.m. today, while the loser plays at 11 a.m. Friday.
With the possibility of multiple matches in multiple days, both Beck and Kenagy are happy the event is on the central Peninsula.
“It’s not our home court, but we still get to sleep in our own beds,” Beck said. “Our fans also will be coming. It’s the second-best thing to being on our home floor.”
The Stars are looking to return to the Class 4A state tournament after tying for fifth place last season.
Kenagy said the experience of seniors Julie Litchfield, Katelynn Kerkvliet and Makayla Wong will be important in the tournament run.
“They have a good attitude and they are pretty excited about it,” Kenagy said of her team. “They are on their home court and they’re pretty excited about that.”
The Kards have not been to state since 2005. After the way her squad played Friday, Beck said she feels a run to the state tournament is possible.
She also will lean on senior leaders Justice English, Falon McGahan and Dacia Shier, the team captain.
“We are peaking and playing the best we possibly can at the end of the season,” Beck said. “Every day of practice benefits us. We have to be consistent on serve-receive and the rest will fall into place.”