The Soldotna High School volleyball team is firing on all cylinders right now.
"We're passing good, we're hitting good, we're blocking good -- we're doing everything good," said Soldotna middle hitter Gretta Besse after the Stars dispatched the Kenai Kardinals in three games, 15-4, 15-11, 15-7, in a Region III/4A match Saturday at Kenai.
SoHi's Saturday win came on the heels of a three-game region victory at home Friday over Homer, 15-6, 15-4, 15-5.
The Stars went through their rotation just once in game one against the Kardinals. Kathryn Becker got things started with a pair of points from the service line, Hillary Zobeck served for a point, Toni Gilbert and Gretta Besse each served for three points and Danielle Kerrone served out the game with six straight points from the service line.
For the Stars, game two and game three were simply a matter of keeping that momentum going.
Soldotna coach Ron Becker pointed out a prime moment for momentum to swing in the third game of the match, with the Stars up 10-7 and Alecia Malchoff at the service line.
"(Kenai) coach (Vanessa) Gabel calls a timeout," Becker explained. "I told Alecia that if you come out and get that first serve in, that keeps the pressure on them.
"She gets that first serve in and she goes on to serve out the match. That's something we have written down in our notebooks as a time when you have to get the serve in."
Malchoff not only got her serves in, but made her final five all but unreturnable for the Kardinals, dashing any hopes Kenai may have had of prolonging the match another game.
Kenai stayed right with Soldotna early in game two. Shamra Bauder had a nice hit off the Soldotna block to get the Kardinals their first point of the game, and while Malchoff served for a pair of points for the Stars, Holly McCune ended the run with a big hit and Erica Shinn served a point to keep the Kardinals within one.
Soldotna's Toni Gilbert served seven straight points to give the Stars a 10-2 lead, and while the Kardinals chipped away, the Stars proved to be too far ahead to catch.
The Kardinals were dealing with adversity throughout the match. Losing a five-setter Friday at Nikiski left the squad emotionally drained, and outside hitter Catie Baldwin left the match early in the first game with spasms in her upper back.
"Against a tough opponent, that's difficult to overcome," Gabel said. "The desire is there, they just need to be able to call it up when they need it. You've got to be able to come back and play two days in a row."
Soldotna was responsible for creating most of the adversity for the Kardinals, though. Outside hitters Zobeck and Kerrone were brutally efficient while middle blockers Gretta and Rachel Besse made an imposing front line.
"With me and Danielle, it's a seniority thing -- we've been playing together for a while. We know what we're doing," Gretta Besse said. "With Rachel and Zobes (Zobeck), it's a tree thing. They're so tall, and there's not too many teams that can put so many tall people up front at the same time."
The front line would have been nothing but window dressing had the Stars been unable to pass effectively, though.
"They're passing the ball, that's the big thing," Becker said of his squad. "The foundation is mental readiness and passing the ball. If you're doing those two things, everything else is a little easier, and they're doing a good job in those areas."
Soldotna is now 3-0 overall and 2-2 in the region, while the Kardinals fall to 1-2 overall and 1-1 in the Region.
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