The Skyview High School volleyball team opened up its season with a big win Tuesday, defeating cross-town rival Soldotna in four games in a Region III/4A match at Skyview.
"It's a blast," said Skyview's Laura Tarbox. "Nobody wanted it more than us tonight. We needed this game to get out the nerves and kinks."
The Panthers did have some early jitters, losing the first game of the best-of-five match 16-14 after leading 14-10.
"It actually made us want to win the next game more," Tarbox said.
The Panthers regrouped to win the next three games, 15-8, 15-8, 15-6.
"For the first game of the season, the team really came out and played well together," said Skyview's Angel Hollers.
The Stars jumped out to an early lead in the first game, taking a 9-1 lead on strong serving by Ashley Duwe and Stacey Foster and solid play at the net from Rachel Besse, Jenna Pitts and Hillary Zobeck.
The Panthers scratched their way back into the game, tying the game at 10 on a good serve by Stacia Pfaffe, then taking the lead on four straight service points by Hollers.
Zobeck snapped Skyview's momentum with a kill, and Christa Martin served out the game for the Stars, getting plenty of help in the form of two blocks and a kill by Zobeck.
"We were fired up at the beginning," Zobeck said of the first game. "We worked together real well. We did the things we do in practice.
"We communicated and played aggressively at the net."
"I thought their two big kids (Besse and Zobeck) did some damage, and I was afraid of that," said Skyview coach Shelia Kupferschmid. "We probably beat them in the backcourt. That's where our experience and depth is."
Skyview steadily pulled away in the second game, with Tarbox providing the winning point on a kill off a quick-set play with setter Christina Colvin.
"Against their block, it was really good to use a quick set," Pfaffe said. "It keeps things unpredictable."
"We had to find a way to get around their block," Skyview's Jessika Truesdell said. "The other key to the game was swinging hard. When we were tipping the ball, they were picking it up."
The Panthers jumped out to an 8-0 lead in game three, sparked by a seven-point run from the service line by Christine Hayes, with a block and a kill during the run by Jenny Carpenter.
Hollers reeled off five more points from the service line -- Tarbox notched two more kills during the run while Shari Isaak added a point on a hit from the back row -- and Colvin served for the win, which came when Pfaffe won a battle for the ball at the net.
Zobeck gave Soldotna the first two points of game four with her serve, and Duwe added an ace to give the Stars a 3-1 lead. Lauren Christensen served for three points, mixing in an ace, to give the Stars a 6-2 lead.
Skyview answered with a service point from Laurel Creel and another by Lindsey Gephardt to pull to within two points, then tied the match on a pair of service points from Truesdell, with both of those rallies finished off at the net by Pfaffe.
Hayes served out the match for the Panthers with nine straight points from the service line, getting plenty of help at the net from Pfaffe, Carpenter and Hollers along the way.
"I'm pleased for my kids and for my seniors," Kupferschmid said. "Soldotna is always a challenge, and they played very well."
Soldotna coach Pako Whannell was optimistic.
"Volleyball is mental, and we kinda lapsed a few times," Whannell said. "Skyview just kept hitting their shots, and we kept coming up a little short. In game one, we reached a new level. We played solid. We couldn't do anything wrong.
"We know how we can play -- it was obvious in the first game."
Skyview will travel to Kodiak for a weekend series while Soldotna (0-1) will visit Palmer Friday and Colony Saturday.
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