The Soldotna High School volleyball team overcame a mental lapse in game three to defeat Homer in four games Tuesday in Soldotna for a Northern Lights Conference victory.
"We don't know what happened. We lost focus, stopped talking, stopped hitting the floor, and were hesitant," said Soldotna's Kala Fowler. "We knew it, and we changed it (for the fourth game). It's not something our coach can make us do. We have to do it ourselves."
Soldotna won the first two games of the match 25-21 and 25-16, but the Mariners rallied to take the third game 25-13. Soldotna regrouped, though, and won game four 25-14.
The Mariners led early in the first game as Amy Maxom started off the match with an ace, but Allyssa Roach tipped things back in the Stars' favor as she served for 10 straight points to give Soldotna a 15-8 lead. Christa Kennedy had a pair of kills during the run, and Dani Donaldson also recorded a kill.
The Mariners got back into the game with a big service run of their own -- Emily Luebbert served for nine straight points to pull the Mariners to within four points, 21-17 -- but a Mariners' hit that went long ended the run. The Stars added another point on a kill by Fowler to make it 23-17 before Homer pulled to within two points, 23-21, on three serves by Maxom.
The Stars got the serve back on a tip from Paige Blackburn, and a Homer player was whistled for a net violation on the next rally to end the game.
The Stars and the Mariners exchanged leads to start the second game before Soldotna began to pull away. With the score tied at 12, a Homer serve fell short, and Soldotna's Lauren Sennette followed with an ace to give the Stars a 14-12 lead. While Sennette's next serve went wide, the Stars continued to add to their lead for the win.
"We were making a lot of errors in the first couple games," said Homer coach Beth Trowbridge. "(In the third game) we changed our rotation a little bit and focused more on keeping the ball in play and giving up points on our own errors."
That philosophy worked well in the third game and the Mariners' middle hitters, Rachel Bornheimer and Reba Temple, began to dictate play at the net, picking up kills and blocks and forcing the Stars' hitters to try to go over or around their block.
Bornheimer and Temple were almost too effective, though, as Trowbridge said her squad had prepared to play defense against a hard-hitting Soldotna attack. When the Stars began tipping over and around the Homer blockers or hitting across the court, the Homer defense had trouble adjusting.
"We need to practice playing that," Trowbridge said.
Fowler said aggressive play was the key to the Stars' success.
"We were being very aggressive," Fowler said. "We've learned their defense and learned their offense. We know where the open spots are and what we had to do."
Soldotna coach Pako Whannell credited Roach with a stellar night in the back row, and also was pleased to see Sabrina Malchoff and Liz Rohloff come in and contribute.
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