Kenai's Katie Foley sets the ball in the second game against Soldotna at SoHi Friday night.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
After losing a key player due to an injury in warm-ups, the Kenai Central volleyball team pulled together to sweep rival Soldotna on the Stars' floor Friday in Northern Lights Conference action.
Winning at Soldotna is always a tall order due to the rivalry between the squads. Friday, that order became even taller when Kenai Central outside hitter Jamie Peterson, a senior, twisted an ankle in warm-ups.
"She's our best player, I'd say," said Kenai Central senior Kelsey Brewer, who moved from defensive specialist to outside hitter for the match after the Peterson injury. "It brought us all down mentally. Some of us were almost crying. It was not good.
"We were all pumped up and ready to go light Soldotna up. When she got hurt, it was hard core. I thought she broke it."
Kenai Central head coach Jason Diorec said the ankle was sprained. He said Peterson was wearing a brace on the ankle and that lessened the damage.
"After warm-ups, the team really got together and regrouped," Diorec said. "They wanted to win this one for Jamie Peterson."
The Kardinals came out aggressive, taking a 10-6 lead in the first game after four service points by Lindsay Keener.
Soldotna's Liz Rohloff returns the ball to Kenai during the third game at Soldotna Friday night.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The Stars, who do not have a senior on their roster, got down 22-16 in the first game when twice in a row they couldn't muster a return for a Kendra Steiner serve.
Soldotna battled back behind the serve of junior Liz Rohloff. Sophomore Paige Blackburn got the Stars started with a couple of kills, then Kenai made several mental errors as Rohloff served the match back to 22-22.
Kenai's Amber McGlasson finally got the ball out of Rohloff's hands with a kill. A Soldotna hitting error and a Katie Foley kill gave the Kards a 25-23 victory.
The second game was a disaster for Soldotna. The Stars' passing fell apart as they fell 25-8.
"In the second game, we just weren't talking, moving our feet or passing," Soldotna coach Pako Whannell said. "It was the exact same group that was on the floor in the first game. We had to do some subbing."
Whannell said the young subs, especially freshman Jenni Stenga, did a nice job.
The Kards were not about to let down, though. Diorec said he has seen volleyball teams lose their mental edge after a blowout victory like Kenai had in Game 2. The squad assumes the rest of the match will be that easy and turns off the intensity, only to find intensity can be hard to turn on again.
In order to guard against that, Diorec has his varsity practice against C-teams and junior varsity teams so they can practice keeping intensity up even when winning big.
The Kards needed that practice Friday because after being off in the second game, Soldotna was ready to fight again in the third game. A kill by junior Megan Duwe cut Kenai's lead to 21-19.
McGlasson got the serve back for Kenai with a kill, then served out two points. After Blackburn made it 24-20 with a block kill, Foley ended the match with a kill.
"This team is such a tight-knit group," said Diorec, whose team is now 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the NLC. "There were some players that were mentally shaken by the injury. But this team showed tonight that it has a lot of heart."
McGlasson had 20 kills for Kenai, while Samantha Calderwood had 12 kills, Lindsay Keener had 10 kills and Steiner had 13 points on serves. Diorec also was pleased with the way young players Kyla Stewart and Julie John responded to playing time.
For Soldotna, Blackburn and Jordan Love each had four kills. Whannell is excited with the way Love, a sophomore, is progressing with her hitting.
Soldotna 3, Seward 0
The Stars rebounded from their Friday loss with their first victory of the season. Soldotna swept the Seahawks to improve to 1-3 overall this season. The scores were 25-23, 25-18 and 25-18.
Lauren Sennette paced the Stars with nine kills, while Blackburn had seven kills, Love had five kills and Dani Donaldson had four kills. Laura Harro had five ace serves for SoHi, while Donaldson added a pair of aces.
"With those kills, it was a great team effort," Whannell said. "Everyone was on today and doing their part on the court and on the bench."
Whannell said the team was disappointed with the match against Kenai.
"It all came from passing and communication," Whannell said. "We proved it to ourselves today."
Whannell also let Love, a middle blocker, stay in the game and play in the back row, Whannell said Love was up to the challenge.
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