Skyview volleyball coach Sheila Kupferschmid took a bold step leading up to a road game at Soldotna on Tuesday night, instilling a new defense prior to the rivalry contest.
In the end, though, it wasn't so daring after all.
Juniors Brittany Meyer and Melissa Massey led the offensive assault with 19 and eight kills, respectively, senior Candace Penrod was setting up points left and right and Skyview controlled Soldotna, 25-20, 25-18, 25-19, scoring eight consecutive points in the third set to finish off the impressive victory.
"I threw in a new defense (Tuesday) and it worked. I was pleased," Kupferschmid said. "The kids just practiced it one day and they came out and did a good job with it.
"We threw in this defense and balls were falling in our lap."
Meyer, who said afterwards it was her most fun game of the season, made things rather difficult for the Stars (3-1) all night.
After a back-and-forth opening set concluded with a strong serve by Skyview sophomore Casee Penrod who had five aces the Panthers (4-1) fell behind 6-3 on the strength of four solid serves by SoHi sophomore Emily Rohloff, who also added 21 assists.
But once Skyview grabbed an 8-7 lead when the Stars' Chelsea Wilbanks' shot sailed out of bounds, they never lost it again.
Owning a 12-8 advantage, Meyer took over, recording four straight Panthers' points three on acrobatic, well-struck spikes and the other on a light tap-over and added two more strong kills down the stretch for a 24-18 lead.
Casee Penrod then finished off Game 2 when her serve skimmed over the net and off the hands of a diving SoHi player for a quick and efficient 2-0 edge.
"They took it to us in every phase of the game," said first-year Stars' coach Bruce King. "There was nothing that we could do to stop those left sides and they had better ball control and better defense than we did.
"Both Missy (Massey) and Brittany beat us on the left side," he added. "We had no answer for either one of them."
SoHi, however, looked like a different team in the early moments of the third set, jumping in front 5-1 and then 7-4 behind three of senior Paige Blackburn's team-high 14 kills.
Once again, though, Meyer responded, hitting the ground for a dig before being set up for an easy tap-over point that trimmed the deficit to 8-7.
Eight ties and eight lead changes later including a 13-10 Panthers' edge at one point found the two rivals knotted at 19 following back-to-back Skyview points.
And they weren't about to stop there.
Casee Penrod continued her sterling serving, running off five more points in a row, three on kills by Meyer. Kupferschmid then brought in senior Jessica Pugh to serve the final point, which she did before Meyer put the finishing touch on a dominating victory with another strong kill off the hands off a SoHi defender.
"It was awesome," Meyer said of their swift, three-set win. "We weren't really expecting it coming into it. We were confident in our game but we played better than we thought we were going to."
While Meyer and Massey owned the net, it was the stellar play of the Penrod sisters that may have been the difference.
"Casee was being consistent and serving and hitting her zones. I guess she was in the right place at the right time," Kupferschmid said. "Hitting her zones, that was key. We were aiming at particular individuals and she came through.
"I think it goes back to my setter finding the hitters and finding those key players that could put the ball away. And Candace Penrod did that all night long," she added. "She had a great setting game and she's a great athlete and she was key. Candace Penrod is key."
In other action, Homer (2-1 overall, 1-1 in conference) defeated visiting Kenai, 25-20, 25-19, 25-12, in an NLC contest.
Matthew Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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