Soldotna shook off the memories of last week’s match with Kenai to easily advance to the quarterfinal round of the Northern Lights Conference volleyball tournament at Soldotna High School on Thursday, sweeping the Kardinals with games of 25-7, 25-20 and 25-7.
Later in the day, however, Soldotna was swept into the loser’s bracket by Palmer, the second seed, with game scores of 25-17, 26-24 and 25-19. Soldotna will face Wasilla today at 1 p.m., while Kenai takes on Colony at 11 a.m.
Earlier on Thursday, Colony swept Wasilla in three sets to move on to face top-seeded Kodiak, where they lost 3-1. Game scores for that match were 25-16, 25-27, 25-18 and 25-21.
Soldotna’s first game of the day with Kenai was a far cry from the 3-1 match that SoHi won last Saturday. Kenai stayed within seven points of the Stars in that match, including a win in game one and a final game in which Kenai pushed SoHi to 27-25.
On Thursday, however, the Stars made sure they were moving on with improved passing.
“I thought our passing was great, it was nice to have that so we could run our offense,” said SoHi coach Emily Kenagy. “With our big hitters we have, it worked out well.”
Senior middle hitter Katelynn Kerkvliet once again provided the power, racking up eight kills and two stuff blocks. Libero Alex Ashe served up 18 points, Skylar Shaw had 11 service points, and outside hitter Makayla Wong had four kills.
With senior setter Julie Litchfield providing numerous assists to Kerkvliet and outside hitter Makayla Wong, the Kards were off balance for much of the action. It didn’t take l ong for Soldotna to stake out a lead, streaking out to a 14-4 lead in game one before Kenai coach Tracie Beck called a timeout.
Once SoHi took the first game, Kenai refocused and took an early lead in the second game, raising hopes of a comeback. But after a few serving points from Kiana Hendricks left them trailing again, mistakes showed up again.
“We didn’t execute anything,” Beck said. “It definitely wasn’t our day. I gotta give it to (Soldotna), they did a great job.”
Outside hitter Heidi Perkins and middle hitter Abby Beck both had eight digs, while Justice English and Kiana Harding notched two kills apiece.
A five-point unanswered streak midway through the second game spurred the Stars to the win, even though it took them five tries to finally win after reaching game point, thanks to some fine serving from Dacia Shier.
Soldotna had point streaks of five, six and six that allowed them to distance themselves from Kenai in the third and final game, and the Kardinals front line netted the ball to end the match at 25-7.
“There’s just nobody here that has had the winning experience in regions,” Beck said. “We have nobody that has that experience, and they do.”
With an experienced line consisting of Kerkvliet, Litchfield and Wong, Soldotna will hope to claw back into contention for a spot at the state tournament by winning their way into the winning bracket of the double-elimination format.
“I think they’re the most experienced of our hitters on our team, and that’s why it works out so well,” Kenagy said about her seniors. “We have our other two hitters that can step in and make it work.”