The Soldotna Stars met the Chugiak Mustangs at Soldotna for a five-game volleyball match Saturday. Both teams played hard, keeping the scores close until the last game.
Ultimately the Stars prevailed, winning three of the five games and gaining a sense of validation after a recent loss to Colony.
Chugiak played offensively, winning the first game,15-6, and keeping the pressure on the Stars throughout the game. Soldotna won the second game, 15-10, before the Mustangs' Amanda Shipman scored six quick points at the beginning of the third game.
The Stars' Alecia Malchoff answered Shipman's barrage, scoring seven points. A series of ties had fans of both teams shouting until the game ended in a victory for Soldotna, 17-15. Chugiak played hard and well to win the fourth game, 15-10. The fifth game, however, wasn't even close: Soldotna won 15-3 after the Mustangs missed eight serves.
Stars head coach Ron Becker credited the Stars' defensive strength.
"I think our blocking has been fairly effective," he said.
Blocking was crucial to the Stars' victory. Chugiak's Carolyn DeKay pounded the team relentlessly with spikes that delivered scores and possessions to the Mustangs, and that elicited excited cheers from the Chugiak fans.
They were louder than that only once, when in the third game the referee gave possession to Soldotna after Stars player Hillary Zobeck returned the ball with a spike they swore was out of bounds. The Stars tempered DeKay's potency with Toni Gilbert's blocks, Becker said, forcing DeKay to spike higher and land the ball occasionally out of bounds.
Becker said that he thought the team's best asset was experience. The Stars played with confidence, he said, noting that the loss to Colony was a valuable lesson.
"The girls played with more confidence, and that just comes with experience," he said.
Stars assistant coach Heidi Van praised the team, especially for its performance in the last game.
"We shut them down," she said, shrugging off any notion that the score of the last game was more the result of the Mustangs coming apart than the Stars getting their game together.
Chugiak head coach Sabrina Bingham said that inconsistency plagued the Mustangs throughout the match.
"Inconsistency kind of killed us," she said.
Bingham said the team has "great hitters who know what to do once they get that set."
She thought that the crushing defeat the team suffered in the last game was the result of fatigue.
"They [the players] were really tired and our game really went downhill," she said.
DeKay also saw inconsistency as a menace to the otherwise strong team.
"We have a hard time keeping a steady pace," she said. "We're a roller coaster team."
Chugiak faces East on Tuesday, when Soldotna will play Seward.
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