Kenai's Ronni Sounart dives unsuccessfully for a ball in the first game Friday against Homer.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Reba Temple is the lone person on the Homer volleyball team with her last name displayed across the back of her jersey.
It's rather ironic, too, because most teams are already well aware of her presence.
And if they're not, they will be soon.
The senior continued to own the net at Kenai on Friday evening, recording nine kills and assisting on six blocks in leading the Mariners to a swift, three-game victory over the Kardinals.
"It was probably our shortest match," Homer coach Beth Trowbridge said following a dominant 54-minute display in which her Mariners claimed a 25-16, 25-9, 25-13 triumph. "I don't think we've won too many in three, so that was kind of nice. I was really happy."
The Mariners (5-4 overall, 3-4 Northern Lights Conference) owned the Kardinals from start to finish in this one.
That's routine, though, for how well Homer has been performing as of late.
Following a four-game loss at Skyview on Sept. 25, Trowbridge said her team sat down and discussed a plan for the future.
Whatever they talked about, it's certainly working.
The Mariners went on to win their own Peninsula Challenge, dropping only one set in the process, which just happened to be against Kenai in a best two-out-three semifinal matchup, and then went on to defeat visiting Nikiski in four games on Thursday before sweeping the Kardinals on Friday.
"It's a big confidence booster and it's really important for these girls to have that because the talent is all there. What we were struggling with when we played Skyview and SoHi before that, was just mental breakdowns," Trowbridge explained. "We actually, as a team, after our Skyview match, met and they set out some goals, what they were going to do in order to overcome these mental challenges that they were having. Then they came out in the Peninsula Challenge and just implemented all those."
They apparently did at Kenai as well.
With the score knotted at 7 in Game 1, the Mariners got two kills apiece from Temple and junior Lindsay Layland in winning 10 of the next 11 points for a commanding 17-8 advantage.
"She's always had the advantage of being tall and so even when she was first learning when she was younger, she was still being successful," Trowbridge said of Temple, who also had eight digs. "But it's really neat this year that she's got the aggression that she was missing in the first three seasons. The aggression and the confidence and so she's going after balls, she's calling for one-sets, she's just there trying to dominate the net."
The Kardinals crept back into it, though, trimming the deficit to 21-14 behind three points from senior Kyla Steward, but couldn't get any closer as Layland (nine kills, eight digs) picked up another two kills down the stretch in finishing it off.
"We've come out in the past against other teams just really on fire the first game and done really well won the first game but then we just kind of let down," Trowbridge said. "And so our goal was the second game, to keep up our intensity and I thought we did. That was great and right into the third game."
Playing the Mariners close again in the second, Kenai, which is 2-8 overall but is still searching for its first conference win, just couldn't keep up.
Homer ran off six consecutive points and later five straight, turning a 5-4 deficit into a 15-8 lead.
Their dominance, however, didn't end there.
The Mariners proceeded to culminate the second game by capturing 10 in a row down the stretch and 15 of the last 16 points overall, the final nine coming off solid serves from Layland.
Game 3 then required only 14 minutes of the Mariners' time as they quickly dispatched the Kardinals behind runs of four and five points four points assisted by the impressive serving of Reba's sister, Jill, who also had 11 digs.
It was only appropriate, though, that Temple was responsible for the final point when her serve wasn't returned.
"The other unique thing about Reba is that in the past she never served for me and she never played back row and she's just stepped up every aspect of her game," Trowbridge said. "She had some beautiful passes, she had some great digs, her serving, she's one of our best servers on the team. It's just neat to see her develop into an all-around player this year."
Kenai coach Jason Diorec wasn't surprised, having faced the Mariners at the Peninsula Challenge last weekend.
"We've battled them as well. We're battling ourselves right now. We're our worst opponent," he said. "But once we get over beating up ourselves, we'll be fine.
"We've still got time. I'm not worried about it," he added. "I know my team's there. They've just got to realize that they're there."
The Kardinals hit trouble again on Saturday, losing 25-15, 25-15, 25-14, to visiting Kodiak.
Matthew Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.
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