The Nikiski High School volleyball team defeated Kenai Central in three games in a nonconference match Tuesday, though the match certainly was closer than the 3-0 score would indicate.
“It’s always going to be a cat fight when we play these guys. These are kids that played in the same neighborhood growing up,” said Nikiski coach Bruce King after his squad won 25-19, 25-18, 25-23.
Kenai Central coach Jason Diorec said it was a great learning experience for his young squad.
“They’re still learning our offensive and defensive systems, but the girls are learning to depend on each other a little more,” Diorec said of his squad. “We did pretty well against Nikiski. We’re definitely seeing progress. The big thing that’s holding us back is our confidence. Once we’re able to stay strong with our confidence through a whole game, we’ll be there.”
Nikiski opened the first game with a 3-0 run, but the Kardinals were able stay within a few points the rest of the game. Kenai tied the game at 10 before a kill by Hannah Thompson put the Bulldogs back in the lead, and Nikiski maintained its advantage, with a tip-kill by Kim Copeland securing the game.
The Kardinals again stayed right with Nikiski in the second game, even taking a 5-4 lead on a kill by Samantha Navarre.
Nikiski responded with a kill by Sherra Pritchard and a four-point service run by Kyla Jorgensen for a 9-5 lead. The Bulldogs would extend their lead to nine points before the Kardinals could regroup.
Game three opened with a kill by Thompson, but the big swing didn’t rattle the Kardinals, who led by as many as four points thanks to some solid serving and nice play at the net from Navarre, Kyla Steward and Damaris Craig.
The Bulldogs were able to chip away at the Kenai lead, though, and a diving dig by libero Danielle Bower that fell on the other side of the net for a point swung the momentum back to the Nikiski side of the net and pulled the Bulldogs to within a point, 22-21.
“Danielle made a dig that totally flopped momentum to our side,” Thompson said.
A kill by Rebekah Summer gave Kenai a two-point lead, but Thompson came up with a kill to close the gap to a point, and Shaylene Peek served up a pair of aces to give the Bulldogs a 24-23 lead. The match ended with a net violation called against Kenai as players tried to dive for a wayward dig on Peek’s final serve.
“We had a couple of tough serves by Shaylene that got them back on their heels,” King said.
While Thompson led the Bulldogs with 11 kills, Sherra Pritchard picked up three kills and nine blocks.
“We’re trying to get our middles more involved than we have in the past to take some of the pressure off our outside hitters,” King said.
While the Bulldogs roster is full of experienced players, King said the one thing the team is still working on is a consistent passing game.
“In some ways they are experienced, but the one thing causing a few problems is that what we lost from last year was really great passers,” King said, “so we’re going to have to work to get to that level of passing.
“We got real shaky (in the third game). We couldn’t get the ball up to run anything. For us, that’s going to be one of our keys all season long.”
Diorec said this year’s Kenai squad reminds him of the one he had when he first took over as coach three years ago. That squad went on to make back-to-back trips to the state tournament.
“It’s exciting to have a young team. It’s great to see them grow into a team,” Diorec said.
Skyview 3, Seward 0
The Panthers swept the Seahawks in a nonconference match in Seward.
Skyview won 25-17, 26-16 and 25-12.
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