The Soldotna High School volleyball team stepped up its game Tuesday, sweeping the visiting Skyview Panthers for a Region III/4A victory.
Also Tuesday, the Kenai Central Kardinals took a leap forward, defeating the Homer Mariners in four games in a region match at Kenai.
"It was so much fun. We've been waiting for this forever," said Soldotna's Heather Roach of the victory over the Stars' cross town rival. "I don't think I've beaten Skyview with any of the teams I've been on."
The first two games of the match were nip and tuck, with Soldotna pulling out the first game 25-23 and winning the second game 25-21. The Stars jumped out to a quick lead in the third game, though, and clinched the match with a 25-13 win.
"We went to the East Tournament last weekend, and we played Dimond, Service and Bartlett," said Soldotna coach Pako Whannell. "We really played well, and did a great job on defense. It really helped out to prepare for Skyview."
Whannell said it was the defense, along with an aggressive effort from the service line, the boosted the Stars. Whannell also commended the play of setters Stacey Foster and Megan Needs.
"They were making sets out of bad passes and bad digs," Whannell said.
Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid said her team was too inconsistent, something that will be remedied with more practice.
"Our goal is always to improve, although I don't think we played a very good match," Kupferschmid said. "But it's a good win for Soldotna. All of us will be striving for wins this year, so this is a good feather in their cap."
Skyview's Anna Bonebrake had eight kills while Amanda Fay and Amber Kunz each had six. Bonebrake also had four blocks.
Whannell credited her two seniors, Roach and Jacquelyn Cowan, with keeping the team upbeat and focused, even when Skyview was starting to gain some momentum.
"At the end of the first two games, (Skyview) was ahead of us," Roach said. "Our coach kept saying, 'Stay loud, stay positive.' Staying positive helped a lot."
Next up for the Stars are the Kardinals.
"They better watch out, because we are ready," Roach said.
Of course, the Kardinals are making some pretty impressive progress on their own, defeating Homer 25-18, 19-25, 25-10, 25-19.
"They're improving every time they play," said Kenai coach Jason Diorec of his squad. "I was expecting baby steps, but these girls want it so bad, they're taking leaps."
Kenai's Jamie Peterson attributed the team's improvement to better communication on the court and a workout regimen that is designed to improve jumping ability and strength.
"We're really starting to mold as a team," Peterson said. "We're working together more, and that's making our game 10 times better.
"And we've been doing this program for jumping and strength, and we're all improving so much."
"I felt like we were really together," added Kenai's Samantha Calderwood. "Most of the time we were in our groove, and we really knew what we were doing."
Diorec said the support of parents and the booster club also has been important, particularly in ensuring that the team's first home match went off without a hitch.
Homer coach Beth Trowbridge also saw some things to build on despite the loss.
"We played with great intensity after that first game," Trowbridge said. "That first game we were flat, but we pulled it together and played well. I have a lot of different players, and we made great strides toward learning the game and improving."
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