The Nikiski High School volleyball team continued to roll Tuesday, defeating Soldotna in three games in a nonconference match at Soldotna.
"That was a good game. We needed one," said Nikiski's Georgie Heaverley. "We definitely have not been playing out best. We've been flat-lining. ... It's good to go into the weekend with this one."
The Bulldogs, now 7-0 in regular-season play, will head to Anchorage to face Heritage Christian and Grace Christian this weekend, marking the halfway-point of their Southcentral Conference schedule.
The Stars, 1-5 this year, were missing middle blocker Jordan Love, who was out sick, and were forced to adjust to a new rotation during the match.
"I had different rotations for all three games to see what would work. We tried to mix it up a little bit," said Soldotna coach Pako Whannell. "I'm proud of their effort and their hustle. When the girls did get under a ball, they tried to hustle and set it up for an attack."
The Stars were able to hang with the Bulldogs early in the match, thanks in large part to the efforts of defensive specialist Laura Harro and middle blocker Paige Blackburn.
With the Bulldogs leading the first game 17-14, Nikiski's Hannah Thompson notched a kill to win the serve, then rattled off five straight points on her jump serve, mixing in an ace and a pair of kills by Heaverley during the run, to give Nikiski a 23-14 lead. Soldotna was able to get in one more serve after an offering from Thompson went long, but a kill by Heaverley and a back-row smash for game point by Thompson gave Nikiski a 25-15 win.
In the second game, Brady was able to create some problems for the Bulldogs at the net with her blocking, then the Soldotna sophomore notched a kill to give the Stars a 15-14 lead. Nikiski responded with a three-point service run from Heaverley that included kills from Kim Copeland and Thompson to regain the lead, 19-15, on its way to a 25-18 win.
Setter Stacey Griffel earned the kill on the final rally, cleverly placing the ball over the net and into an empty spot with Nikiski's second touch after seeing players from both sides crowding the net after a series of big hits and blocks.
The Bulldogs gradually pulled away from the Stars in the third game. A jump serve by Griffel for match point didn't quite work, but Copeland came up with a big hit that Soldotna couldn't quite return to finish off the match 25-18.
"Very workman-like. It was exactly what we were looking for," Nikiski coach Bruce King said of his team's effort.
Thompson led the Bulldogs with 13 kills while Heaverley had eight and Copeland notched three, a season-best for her. Sherra Pritchard had a season-high eight blocks, and the Bulldogs recorded 48 digs as a team, led by Thompson's 11 and Sasha Auldridge's eight.
"I think our passing was affected by their serving. It kept us off-guard, and Paige gets better every time we see her," King said of the Stars.
Nikiski also put together a strong game from the service line.
"We always bring it with our serve. It helps to throw the other team off so they can't execute their offense," Heaverley said.
As for dealing with Brady at the net, Heaverley said the advice she got was to just keep swinging and try to angle the ball off her arms.
"With Hannah, she can work it a little more and position it, but with me, it's just swing," Heaverley said.
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