Nikiski's Georgie Heaverley dives for the ball in the second game against Kenai Thursday night.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The Nikiski and Kenai Central high school volleyball teams jumped right into the regular season, battling through a five-game nonconference match won by the Bulldogs in front of a packed house at Kenai Thursday.
“Holy mackerel,” Nikiski coach Bruce King of the atmosphere. “This is a great rivalry, and our kids get so excited with all the football players here. The energy level skyrockets.”
The Bulldogs needed every last bit of energy they could must as they found themselves trailing by four points to open the fifth and final game. The Bulldogs came back with four straight service points from Georgie Heaverley to tie the game, and the teams battled back and forth the rest of the way.
A kill by Kenai’s Jamie Peterson tied the game at 13, and after a Kenai hit landed wide and pushed the Bulldogs to match point, Heaverley served up the winner as Kenai’s return didn’t clear the net.
“We kind of took a step backward (from last year),” said Nikiski’s Stacey Griffel, referring to the squad that went undefeated through the regular season and placed fourth at the state 3A tournament. “After this game, we took a step way forward. We’re ahead of where we were last year.”
The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 10-point lead in the first game before the Kardinals got things rolling. Kenai pulled to within three points, 23-20, before the Bulldogs were able to close it out, surviving a long rally on game point for a 25-20 win.
Game two started much the same with Nikiski leading 18-7, but the Kardinals were able to catch the Bulldogs this time, tying the game at 24 on a quick-set kill by Amber McGlasson. The game went into extra points before Peterson played a well-placed tip for a kill and a 29-17 Kenai win, leveling the match.
The Kardinals carried their momentum into the third game, taking an early five-point lead. This time Nikiski came storming back, taking a 21-17 lead before Samantha Calderwood recorded a kill and Katie Foley served for three straight points to tie the game.
After the Bulldogs won a point and the serve on a Kenai miscue, Hannah Thompson fired off an ace to give Nikiski a two-point lead, but a Bulldogs’ hit landed out of play on the next rally, keeping Kenai within a point.
The Bulldogs won the point and the serve right back, though, and Griffel closed out the game from the service line for a 25-22 win.
The fourth game went back and fourth from the start until took the lead at 10-9 and never looked back. The Kardinals led by as many as six points. While Nikiski came back to within a point, 24-23, Kenai held on to win the game when McGlasson came up with a block on a Nikiski tip, sending the match to game five.
“It’s awesome,” said Griffel, who was shaking from the adrenaline following the match. “Everyone did really good and pulled their part.
“... The gym was completely loud, but I could here everyone talking. Everyone was getting down and getting the ball up.”
While everyone contributed, Thompson was Nikiski’s go-to player with 27 kills, 25 digs and four blocks. Sherra Pritchard had six blocks for the Bulldogs and Griffel, the setter, recorded 21 assists.
Kenai coach Jason Diorec said it was good to start the regular season off with an intense match.
“Both programs are so strong. When we go head to head, you can almost count on it going five games every time,” Diorec said. “Last year, we won the (preseason) Homer jamboree and came back and plateaued a little. It’s a little different this year. We came back with a hard match. That keeps us going. They’ve got to be wanting it every game they promised me they’d play hard until they graduate.”
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