The Skyview High School volleyball team dropped the opening game of its Northern Lights Conference match at Soldotna Tuesday, but the Panthers rallied to defeat the Stars in four games.
“It’s so awesome whenever we beat them. It’s a big rivalry. It’s nice to push it in their face every once in a while,” said Skyview’s Brittany Meyer.
The Panthers were missing outside hitter Missy Massey, who was out with the flu, but Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid said her team adjusted to the new lineup.
“We had some lineup changes, but that kind of adversity can bring a team together. They really fo-cused,” Kupferschmid said.
Despite the changes, the Panthers have had a constant in the back row all season in libero Chelsie Martin, and Kupferschmid said her team has played consistent volleyball all season.
“That’s what’s brought us so far our consistency on ball control,” Kupferschmid said.
Indeed, Skyview’s defensive stats tell the story of the match: Martin went 20-of-22 on serve-receive opportunities and was 13-of-17 digging the ball, and Jennifer Holland was 13-of-17 digging the ball.
Good defense helps the offense, and setter Melissa Fay was credited with 27 set-assists on the night.
On the other side of the net, Soldotna coach Pako Whannell is trying to find that same consistency.
“The first game, we did exactly what we had practiced. If we would’ve kept up the intensity for the next two games, I believe my girls would’ve had it, but that up and down roller coaster of emotions and intensity got the better of us,” Whannell said.
Soldotna went toe-to-toe with the Panthers in the first game, trading big hits and nice defensive plays before pulling away for a 25-20 win.
The Panthers jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the second game, though, on tough serving by Jordan Grant.
Paige Blackburn notched a kill to end Skyview’s run and Dani Donaldson had several big hits, but the Stars couldn’t overcome the early deficit and the Panthers won 25-18.
Soldotna took a 3-0 lead to open the third game on a kill by Christa Kennedy and some solid serving from Lauren Senette, including an ace, but the Stars lost focus midway through the game and the Panthers pounced, leading by as many as seven points.
The Stars battled back to within two points, 23-21, before the Panthers were able to close out the game, 25-21.
Skyview put together a 10-point run to take a 15-3 lead in game four. Blackburn came up with a block to stop the bleeding, and the Stars scrapped to make it close, but the Panthers prevailed 25-19 to take the match.
“I give credit to Soldotna,” Kupferschmid said. “They fought all the way to the last point. Pako has brought them a long ways.”
“Our biggest hurdle is inconsistency. The girls need to finish what they started,” Whannell said.
Meyer, a sophomore, said she was nervous jumping into the lineup for such an intense match, but settled down once she got a few hits in.
“Once we started to get the passes good, the sets were good and I was able to get my timing right,” Meyer said. “Chelsie, our libero, keeps us going. She’s always there to pass it for us. She’s what holds us up all the the time. And I think we have the best setter around. She can get it anywhere she wants.”
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