Soldotna's Allyssa Roach and Megan Needs drop for a ball during Friday's games against Kenai.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The Kenai Central High School volleyball team used a week away from competition to make themselves stronger both physically and mentally, and the results paid off Friday as the Kardinals defeated the visiting Soldotna Stars in four games in a Northern Lights Conference match.
"They've got that fight back in them. They're really wanting to win," said Kenai coach Jason Diorec following the match.
Kenai took the first game 25-19, and after Soldotna rallied for a 25-21 win in the second game, the Kardinals buckled down to win the third game 25-18.
Kenai's Kaitlin Walker finished off the match by serving for the final six points in the Kardinals' 25-16 win in game four. Walker ended the match with an ace.
"That was pure enjoyment," said Walker. "We finally played as a team and clicked. I was getting sets, and I was just on today which, for any player, feels wonderful."
Both Walker and Kenai's other middle hitter, Amber McGlasson, were able to take advantage of some quick-set plays from Kendra Steiner.
"We've worked on that a lot. Those are my favorite sets. I don't like the slow ones," McGlasson said.
Steiner was able to mix things up as well, feeding outside hitters Samantha Calderwood and Jamie Peterson.
"We've been trying different things, and working on our endurance, which helps us a lot mentally to stay focused," Walker said. "We didn't let the mental errors get us down. We were able to pick it up and play our best, which feels good."
For its part, Soldotna also played well. Paige Blackburn was solid at the net, Christa Kennedy hit the ball well and Lauren Sennette and Alyssa Roach had great games serving the ball.
Soldotna coach Pako Whannell said she wanted her players, some of whom have been tentative of late, to come out and play aggressively against Kenai. She got that, she said, and while not all of the hits were accurate, Whannell said that could be straightened out by the time the region tournament rolls around.
Diorec said he was pleased to see Emily Kocinski make a contribution as she recovers from an injury.
"She really played well. She's got the heart for it -- I just hope her body stays together," Diorec said.
Diorec also was happy to see the Kardinals rebound after dropping the second game. He attributed the second-game letdown to a lack of chatter.
"Usually, it's when we get our quietest. When we stop talking, we lose intensity," Diorec said.
"We fell apart mentally, but all of us got ourselves back up," McGlasson said.
Both the Kardinals and the Stars will play at the Grace Invitational tournament next week. Both Diorec and Whannell said it would be a great opportunity to hone their teams' play as the prepare for the the homestretch of the regular season.
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