A scary Nikiski volleyball team is getting a whole lot scarier to opponents because sophomore Hannah Thompson is starting to hit well again.
Behind 15 kills from Thompson, the Bulldogs improved their record to 7-0 overall Friday with a nonconference sweep of visiting Homer. The scores were 25-21, 25-20 and 25-12.
Thompson missed the first four games of the season with an injury to her right, and hitting, shoulder. The Bulldogs have enough weapons on offense that they were still able to get off to a perfect start.
Friday, Thompson, who also had 14 digs, nailed a variety of spots with her spikes and at times dominated the match against the Mariners.
"She's starting to get her rhythm back again," Nikiski coach Bruce King said. "She moved the ball around instead of trying to hit the same shot every time."
Homer fell to 0-4 with the loss. Despite their record, and even with Thompson playing well, the Mariners did not go down easily in the first two games.
"This was a tough opponent," said Nikiski's Krystal Gladden, who had 10 blocks. "They came out battling."
Homer coach Beth Trowbridge said she has a young squad that is rebuilding after losing a number of seniors to graduation. Her goal is to get the team playing well by regions.
If the team keeps up its current level of improvement, Trowbridge has a shot of reaching her goal. King said the Mariners looked a lot better than at a preseason jamboree.
In the first game, Homer had a 21-20 lead until it missed a serve then let Georgie Heaverley serve out the last four points of the match. Up until those last four points, the Mariners, led by Bailey Lowney, were playing excellent defense.
Trowbridge particularly liked the play of underclassmen middle hitters Reba Temple and Rachel Bornheimer. The two are tall enough to provide a significant obstacle for attackers. They also are starting to develop on offense, as Bornheimer had six kills while Temple added three kills.
In the second game, the Mariners again stayed with the Bulldogs, but again Nikiski pulled away late. Homer had a 15-12 lead, but Heaverley got the serve back with a kill. Eirleen Lee then gave Nikiski the edge with eight service points. Homer never recovered from the barrage.
"Strong serving always is a big confidence booster," Gladden said. "It's nice to go six or seven serves without having to rotate."
In the third game, a string of strong Nikiski serving was again the difference. Amber Huhndorf had 11 service points early in the game to give Nikiski a 12-1 lead.
Huhndorf's service run ended with a missed serve, but King said he'll take the missed serves if it also means long strings of points like Huhndorf provided.
"We're willing to accept errors in serving," King said. "What we want is an ace-to-error ratio of 2 to 1.
King said his team attacked better and better as the match went on. Heaverley had 10 kills, while Gladden had six. Setting the table was Stacey Griffel with 26 assists.
For Homer, Amanda Conley added five kills.
"I keep telling them they're improving, but unfortunately we haven't won any," Trowbridge said. "I was happy we were able to stay with Nikiski for two games."
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