Even before the opening whistle got things rolling in Tuesday’s nonconference match, Homer volleyball coach Erin Brege was already dealing with a problem. The loss of her starting setter Kelli Bishop.
With Bishop out of the lineup, the Mariners fell victim to a dominating three-game sweep by Soldotna. The Stars won with scores of 25-9, 25-20 and 25-11 on their home floor at Soldotna High School.
“Having a freshman step up into that role, that on her shoulders, the team guided her very well,” Brege said, referring to the choice to put freshman defensive specialist Paige Jones into the lineup in place of Bishop. “The second set was better, but overall it was very difficult to have that in any situation.”
In pregame warmups, Bishop landed awkwardly on a teammate’s foot, according to Brege, and spent the rest of the evening on the Homer bench receiving attention from an assistant coach.
It led to a commanding start to the night by SoHi, which jumped out to a lead of 6-1 and later used a nine-point unanswered run to boost it to 21-3, helped by a strong service game from sophomore Holleigh Jaime.
“Typically, we would be fighting every match,” said Soldotna head coach Sheila Kupferschmid. “Tonight I could play a lot of kids and use our depth to our advantage.
“If I get the opportunity, we’ll play them.”
Kupferschmid pointed to the aggressive serving of Jaime as a highlight to the night, which complimented the dominant game by junior Aliann Schmidt at the front.
“We were bigger and stronger at the net tonight, and our jump-serving had more velocity,” Kupferschmid said. “Holleigh just ripped off serve after serve.”
Jaime finished with 13 service points and 12 digs, while Schmidt led the Stars attack with 11 kills and two blocks. Senior setter Shay Zener had 20 service points and 28 digs, Ella Stenga added 10 digs and four kills, Hannah Delker served up seven points, Bailey Leach had four kills and two blocks, and Callie Christiansen notched 12 assists.
Without Bishop, Homer was led by Marina Carroll, who had three blocks, and Karmyn Gallios, who produced nine digs.
SoHi improved to 3-2 overall, while Homer dropped to 2-3 with the loss.
Early on, it was clear who had the upper hand. The Stars took advantage of Homer’s space in the middle of the floor to bat down balls and ease to a big opening set win.
The Mariners rallied back in Game 2 to challenge the Stars for the win. Homer stuck with SoHi for much of the set, staying within a few points on rapid defensive moves that countered kill shots from Schmidt and Kodi McGillivray.
A 6-1 run by Homer put the visitors within range of Soldotna at 19-17, but the Stars scored five of the next seven points to gain set point, which they knocked out in two tries for a 2-0 match lead.
An assertive middle-hitting performance by Schmidt to begin the third set got the Stars off to a flying start, and SoHi took leads of 9-3 and 21-7 en route to the win.
SoHi will travel to Anchorage this weekend for the two-day West Spiketacular tournament.