Last one standing, get the lights.
The Kenai Central High School volleyball team outslugged Soldotna Thursday night, taking its Region III/4A match in five games, 15-11, 10-15, 9-15, 18-16 and 15-12.
"Oh my goodness -- that was a blast," said Kenai's Charity Christensen. "The intensity and the adrenaline was out there."
In fact, neither side was shy about going for a big serve or punishing the opponent's block with a big hit at the net.
Kenai survived a pair of Soldotna match points in game four, and the Kardinals swung their way to a 5-1 lead to open game five. Christensen notched a kill on the first point of the game as Crystal Morris served for two points.
After trading sideouts, Tabitha Strauss hit an ace for the Stars, but Kenai's Erica Shinn finished off the next rally with a kill and Amy Fischer served for three straight Kenai points. The Stars had trouble receiving Fischer's first serve, while Laura Rhyner added a kill and Kamilla Goggia capped a rally with a hit off the Soldotna block.
Soldotna was able to regroup and pull ahead, 8-6, on six straight serves by Stacey Foster. Foster notched an ace during the run and the Stars also got points on kills by Hillary Zobeck and Strauss.
Christensen halted the run with a hit off the Soldotna block, and Goggia scored a pair of service points to tie the game at 8.
Kenai and Soldotna traded sideouts and points until Morris, with the game tied at 11, stepped to the service line and hit an ace, giving the Kardinals a lead they would not relinquish.
Morris served for one more point -- scored on a kill by Christensen -- and while Strauss came up with a big serve to keep the Stars within a point, Fischer was able to tip a Soldotna block back over the net to win the sideout for Kenai, and then served out the match for the Kardinals.
Rhyner took care of the final point, pounding the ball off the Stars block.
"Laura hits the ball really hard," said Kenai coach Vanessa Gabel. "She's definitely being very smart about her hitting. She's recognizing when she needs to cream it and when she needs to back off."
Gabel also was impressed with Christensen, who had the ball set in her direction frequently during the match and, more often than not, delivered.
"I thinks it's just the way it worked out -- we try to even out our hits," Christensen said. "I wasn't putting too many down, but I found that my tipping worked.
"We knew we could put it down. We worked all week on hitting."
Christensen attributed Kenai's solid effort up front to great teamwork all over the court.
"It's the whole chemistry -- good pass, good set, good hit -- it all works together," Christensen said. "Talking makes the difference. If we're not talking, then we're not playing. Talking gets us excited, and excitement is what helps us achieve our goals."
Soldotna coach Pako Whannell said her squad met their goals as well.
"Even though we didn't get the win on the scoreboard, I feel like we won the game," Whannell said. "One of the goals was team communication, and we did that. We wanted to attack the ball, and we did that, and we wanted our setter to take charge, and she did that."
"It's the best we've ever played," Strauss said. "I don't think anybody can say they could've played harder. We came in and wanted to play our best -- we did.
"It was a tough game, but we had a lot of fun playing it."
Kenai took the first game of the match, climbing back after the Stars jumped out of a 6-0 lead. Morris served for the final six points of the game, keeping the Stars back on their heels.
Soldotna figured out how to disrupt Kenai's hitting in the second and third game, though, as Rachel Besse and Zobeck got the timing and positioning down on their blocks.
"Laura and Kamilla like to hit at angles," Whannell said of Kenai's hitters. "Rachel and Hillary needed to stay inside on their blocks. Once they got it into their heads that they needed to make that move, they adjusted."
Soldotna had the Kardinals on the ropes in game four before Kenai was able to win it in extra points.
Shinn won a sideout for the Kardinals with the game tied at 16, and then served up two points to force the fifth game.
Soldotna (0-5) will host Nikiski Saturday while Kenai (4-2) is off this weekend and will travel to Homer Tuesday.
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