The Kenai Central High School volleyball team defeated the visiting Homer Mariners in four games in its first home match of the season, but the Kardinals also saw a lot of room for improvement in their performance Friday.
"This was more like a slap on the wrist. We need to pick it up and work harder," said Kenai's Kaitlin Walker following the Northern Lights Conference match.
While the Kardinals were happy to win their first home match of the season, they were looking for a little more consistency from themselves.
"I hoped it would be a lot better, but that's how it goes," Samantha Calderwood said. "At times our passing was right on and our hits were in, but at other times it was completely the opposite."
The Kardinals led by as many as four points late in the first game before the Mariners cut the deficit to one point, 24-23, after the Kardinals were whistled for a net violation and then hit a return of Bailey Lowney's serve long.
Katie Foley recorded a kill on Lowney's next serve, though, to finish off a 25-23 win for Kenai.
The second game also was a back-and-forth affair. Emily Kocinski served up for straight points to give Kenai a 6-1 lead, but the Mariners came back with three service points from Rachel Bornheimer Reba Temple and Amanda Conley helped out with a big block in the front row to cut Kenai's lead back to one point.
Kenai was able to pull away to a seven-point lead at 19-12, but the Mariners won back the serve and Bornheimer served up another five straight points as the Kenai hitters struggled to find their range. The score was eventually tied at 25, and again at 26 and 27 before Kocinski hit a big serve to push Kenai to game point. Kocinski followed with another big serve, and the Mariners' attack ended up in the net, giving Kenai a 29-27 win.
In the third game, though, the Mariners began to dictate the pace of play, turning every rally into a scramble and hustling for every ball. Bornheimer recorded three straight kills to give the Mariners an 11-8 lead, and the Mariners' advantage swelled to as many as nine points when Emily Luebbert served an ace to give Homer a 24-15 edge. Kenai staved off game point for three more rallies before falling 25-17.
Homer was neck-and-neck with the Kardinals in the fourth game, had taken a one-point lead, 14-13, and appeared to have served for a 15th point when the official ruled that two Homer players had overlapped illegally on a previous serve. Points were taken away from the Mariners, and the serve, as well as a 14-13 lead, was returned to the Kardinals.
Homer was able to tie the game at 14, but Kenai's Foley proceeded to fire off five straight service points to squelch any remaining Mariner momentum. Kenai went on to win 25-19, ending the match.
"It's the wrong way to lose a game," said Homer coach Beth Trowbridge. Trowbridge argued that officials shouldn't have taken Homer points off the scoreboard the call should have been made when it happened, and going back after the next rally had started should not have been an option.
Trowbridge said she had no idea how the game might have ended had the call been different, but clearly, the decision rattled her young squad.
"It's unfortunate I feel like we were playing right with them," Trowbridge said.
Still, Trowbridge was pleased with the way her team played.
"Kenai's a tough team, and I felt like we played them tough," Trowbridge said.
Trowbridge was especially pleased with the net play of Temple and Bornheimer's competitiveness.
"With our blocking tonight, they were starting to try to go around and over (Temple)," Trowbridge said. "That's what we want to do, get them out of their game."
Calderwood led the Kardinals with nine kills and seven digs while Jamie Peterson had seven kills and Amber McGlasson had five kills.
Kenai coach Jason Diorec said he would continue to stress unity and consistency as the team prepares for a trip to Kodiak, where the Kardinals will also play a match against Juneau-Douglas in addition to facing the conference-rival Bears.
"Once we've got that done being consistent, that's the key I think we're going to be good," Diorec said.
Nikiski 3, ACS 0 Nikiski 3, Houston 0
The Bulldogs improved their record to 3-0 overall and 3-0 in the Southcentral Conference with a sweep of Anchorage Christian Schools Friday and Houston Saturday.
Nikiski topped ACS 25-12, 25-7 and 25-19. Krystal Gladden had 11 kills and four blocks while Georgie Heaverley had nine kills and Amber Huhndorf had nine service aces.
Nikiski coach Bruce King said defensive specialist Sasha Auldridge sparked the team with perfect serve-receive passing and aggressive play from the back row.
The Bulldogs topped Houston 25-7, 25-15 and 25-22.
Heaverley had nine digs, six kills and six service aces while Racheal Gerke had five kills and Eirleen Lee had seven digs.
King said Sherra Pritchard helped the team by moving from opposite hitter to middle hitter to fill in for the injured Hannah Thompson.
Pritchard had four kills, three blocks and two digs.
Soldotna 3, Grace Christian 1
The host Stars improved to 3-0 overall this season with a 25-8, 24-26, 25-16 and 25-17 nonconference victory over the Grizzlies. Soldotna coach Pako Whannell said the one letdown her team had in the second game was due to lack of communication.
"Our goal this year is to stay positive and play as a team," Whannell said. "As long as we're staying positive, I believe this group of girls can do anything."
Christa Kennedy paced Soldotna with 10 kills, while Stacey Foster had nine kills, Kala Fowler had eight kills and Megan Needs and Dani Donaldson each had five kills. Needs had 11 assists for the Stars, while Foster added five.
Foster paced Soldotna with eight ace serves, while Kennedy and Allyssa Roach each had four aces and Needs had three aces. Dani Donaldson and Foster each had an assist block kill, while Kennedy and Foster had 14 good digs, Fowler had 12 good digs, Lauren Sennette had 11 good digs and Need and Roach each had nine good digs.
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