A Southcentral Conference victory over Anchorage Christian Schools on Friday night put the Nikiski volleyball team on the right path to start the season.
The Bulldogs rallied from a first-game loss to top ACS 3-1 in their season opener, with game scores of 21-25, 26-24, 25-20 and 25-11.
After getting off to a shaky start, the Bulldogs slowly began finding their stride and put together a consistent hitting game.
“After losing that first game, it could’ve gone completely downhill,” said senior Rachel Thompson, an experienced setter on the team. “But we took that loss and totally built off of it.
“It was amazing what the young people on our team could do. They did awesome, because you never know how a younger player will react.”
Thompson racked up 23 assists to go along with 10 aces and seven kills, and senior libero Laura Hufford ended her night with 30 digs.
Ayla Pitt recorded seven kills and two blocks, Brianna Vollertson had five service aces, and Lauren O’Brien added three service aces.
Junior Tanner Ealum led ACS with 24 digs, and teammate Hannah Edmonds added eight kills on offense. ACS dropped to 0-2 in conference play with losses to Seward and Nikiski on consecutive nights.
Nikiski coach Stacey Segura ended the night pleased with her team, adding that the opponent provided an ideal challenge for a conference match.
“I think ACS was a great matchup for us to start the season,” Segura said. “The girls could make mistakes and see what they were doing wrong, and still get back in it.”
ACS led Nikiski for nearly the entire duration of the first game, although the Bulldogs only once trailed by more than five points.
ACS continued to give Nikiski headaches using its serving game with a 5-1 start to the second match, but the Bulldogs turned a four-point deficit into a tie game midway through with several strong kills from Thompson and Melanie Sexton. ACS held match point at 24-19, but Nikiski never wavered in an impressive eight-point swing that gave them a 26-24 victory to tie the contest up at one game apiece.
“I said you guys can do this, keep fighting, you’re not done,” Segura said. “Once they realized they could do this, and got back into a system and stopped running into each other, they were fine.”
Thompson continued the strong performance with five consecutive service points to start the third game.
“I think we just got all our nervous jitters out,” Thompson said. “Then we started thinking, hey we know how to play. It helped a lot to build our confidence.”
ACS answered back with nine straight points to take a 12-8 lead, using a few laser serves and defensive blocking. Later in the game, with both teams tied at 20 apiece, it was Nikiski finishing with a strong service game, ending on consecutive serving points from Vollertson to win and take a 2-1 lead.
“We were able to relax a bit after that,” Segura said. “The third match is tough to lose because then you start thinking, we gotta win or we’re out of it. It was nice to have the girls relax after that game.”
The Bulldogs finished the night with a dominant fourth game, riding two nine- and six-point streaks to overwhelm ACS and claim the victory.
The win gives the home team a lot of confidence heading into next weekend’s Shayna Pritchard Memorial tournament at Nikiski High School.