Nikiski downed visiting Houston in four games, 25-12, 25-23, 15-25 and 25-18, on Thursday for its first win of the 2010 volleyball season.
"It was a hurdle that needed to be overcome," Bulldogs head coach Amber Oliva-Douglas said.
"It's exciting because we're such a young team," Nikiski junior Savannah Griffel said.
After taking a 2-0 lead, Houston rolled to an easy win in the third game. The Hawks scored 11 straight points on the back of 10 consecutive Amber Acton serves to take a commanding advantage from which Nikiski could not recover.
"We came out a little overconfident," Nikiski sophomore Makenzie Moore said. The team wasn't talking or moving its feet, she said.
In the past, the Bulldogs have folded after a poor game. But Thursday, Nikiski rebounded to win the fourth game and close out the match.
"They had to make the choice not to give up, and they did," Oliva-Douglas said. "I was glad they didn't give up after losing their first game."
In the huddle prior to the fourth game, Nikiski was focused on ending the match.
"We just said we need to buckle down and get it done," Griffel said. "Everyone wanted to win really bad."
"We just decided we needed to win," Moore said.
Houston battled back from a five-point deficit to tie the game at 15. Holding a two-point lead, Nikiski scored five straight points to take a 24-17 advantage. After a deep serve gave the ball back to Houston, Nikiski's Kinsey Martin sealed the win with one of her seven kills on the night.
Moore paced the Bulldogs with nine kills. Sienna Wallis and Taylor Calderwood each had five. Kelsey Williams had two kills and two assists.
Griffel had a team-high 18 service points and three aces. Calderwood followed with 12 service points and six aces. Bailey Buchholz recorded 11 service points and Martin had nine.
On defense, Minna Bogard led with seven digs. Moore and Calderwood each had four digs and Wallis had two blocks.
Though there were breakdowns, Nikiski had good communication, Oliva-Douglas said. The team started playing comprehensively better volleyball, she said.
"When it was ugly, it was really ugly," Oliva-Douglas said. "But when it was good, it was really good."
Nikiski had "little sparks of good things" mixed in with subpar play, Griffel said. "We just need to put those little things together," she said.
Griffel echoed her coach's words about the team's communication.
"We were really communicating with each other," she said. "When we're not talking, everyone is on their little island. We're scared and timid. When we are talking, we're having fun like a volleyball team."
In the three games Nikiski won, the team was having fun on every point, win or lose, Moore said. The energy was high in those games, she said.
"We're improving on all of us working together," Moore said. "Being trustworthy of everyone else behind them."
Oliva-Douglas also saw improvement in her young, inexperienced squad.
"They'll only get better with time," she said.
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