Kenai tops SoHi in five games

Stars nearly complete comeback from 0-2 deficit against rivals

Posted: Friday, September 17, 2004

25-18, 25-13, 15-25, 28-30 and 15-13.

Anyone who knows anything about volleyball and the rivalry between Kenai Central and Soldotna knows that those numbers added up to an evening increasingly packed with tension Thursday at Soldotna High School.

The Kardinals triumphed in the Northern Lights Conference match, getting 17 kills and 17 digs from Jamie Peterson.

"Every win gets you a little tighter and closer as a team, especially in games like this," Kenai coach Jason Diorec said. "We had to battle all the way both teams did.

"Matches like this are good for both teams because it teaches them how to fight."

The first two games were all Kenai because Soldotna struggled to spike the ball on Kenai's defense. In the first game, Soldotna was able to manage just six kills. In the second game, Soldotna had just five kills.

Meanwhile, Kenai's aggressive attack of players like Peterson, Samantha Calderwood (nine kills on the game) and Amber McGlasson (six kills) was regularly beating Soldotna's defense.

In the third game, Soldotna coach Pako Whannell had seen enough. She switched to a lineup Soldotna had never used this year.

Whannell didn't know it at the beginning of the match, but middle hitter Paige Blackburn was sick. She was having trouble getting to some of her blocks.

Kala Fowler and Dani Donaldson played middle hitter in the new lineup, while defensive specialist Lauren Sennette moved to outside hitter.

"Lauren Sennette had always kind of practiced hitting and had wanted to hit, but she'd never gotten her chance," Whannell said. "Tonight, she got her chance and it picked up the team."

Sennette had seven points on her serve early in the third game to stake the Stars to a 7-0 lead. During the run, Kenai did not get four of Sennette's serves back over the net.

"They picked it up," Peterson said. "They wanted to prove they could play with us. We also let down mentally."

That mental letdown was more than enough to give Soldotna's new lineup the confidence it needed to start playing with the Kardinals.

"They came out in the third game and learned how to transition smoothly from defense to offense," Diorec said. "That caught us off guard."

The Stars rolled to victory in the third game, setting the stage for a dramatic two-game finish.

In the fourth game, Kenai overcame an early deficit to tie the game at 19. By that point, Soldotna was playing frantic defense and players like Stacey Foster, Kala Fowler, Christa Kennedy and Lauren Sennette were hammering the ball.

"Both sides wanted it so bad, they were picking everything up," Peterson said. "It's during those long volleys that we're glad we do so much conditioning in practice. It was all conditioning in that fourth game."

The Stars won that fourth game on a couple of Kenai miscues after the score was knotted at 28. Soldotna then appeared to be ready to complete the comeback when the Stars grabbed a 12-9 lead in the fifth game.

However, a Soldotna hitting error, a kill by Peterson and a block kill on a combined effort from Peterson and McGlasson tied the scored at 12.

After a Kenai hitting error, Calderwood had a kill, Peterson had a kill and Soldotna committed a hitting error to give Kenai the victory.

"Everybody on the team knew we came here to win," Peterson said. "We all knew we had to win."

Whannell said the loss should help her team.

"I'm so proud that we went five games with Kenai and almost came back and won," Whannell said. "My girls really stepped it up."

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