WASILLA At times during Friday's volleyball match against the Skyview Panthers, Wasilla looked unstoppable.
Just not all of the time.
The Panthers overcame a midmatch surge by the Warriors to pull out a 3-1 (25-18, 25-23, 17-25, 25-18) Northern Lights Conference victory at Wasilla High School.
"We just lost the intensity," Wasilla junior Jenna Johnson said following the match. "We're really up and down."
Wasilla coach Anna Simmons said the match was typical of the Warriors' play this season. When Wasilla passes the ball and plays good defense at the net like they did at times Friday the Warriors can be a tough opponent. But too often, Simmons said, her team will lose focus and allow teams to go on big runs.
"We have great passers, great setters, great hitters, we've just got to be consistent," Simmons said.
Skyview cruised to an easy win the in first game before the Warriors woke up in the second, a back-and-forth affair that came down to the wire. Wasilla took a 20-19 lead on a Johnson kill before Skyview tied things up at 20-20 when Wasilla captain Ashlen Welch's spike went just long.
Skyview went up by two on a Wasilla misplay and Melissa Massey kill, but the Warriors again fought back behind a big Johnson block that cut the lead to 22-21. The teams again traded points before Skyview's Brittany Meyer ripped a spike past the Warrior block to give the Panthers two game points.
Wasilla closed the gap to 24-23 when the Panthers served out of bounds, but Massey was able to close things out with a game-winning spike off Johnson to end the game.
Skyview got a big boost in the game from senior Megan Revis, who came off the bench with the score tied and served two of Skyview's final five points in the game.
Following the match, Revis said she likes being brought in with the game on the line.
"It's intense," she said. "You have a job to do and you need to do it."
The tight game seemed to give Wasilla a confidence boost, and the Warriors came out firing in the third.
The Warriors used an 8-3 run midway through the game to take command, then held serve the rest of the way to pick up a relatively easy 25-17 win that cut Skyview's lead to 2-1.
"I thought Wasilla put up a pretty good block," Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid said following the match. "They came out in the middle and were pretty effective."
Kupferschmid said she was forced to switch strategy between the third and fourth games in order to counter Wasilla's tough play at the net.
"They were in rhythm in the third, we had to break that," she said.
The adjustments seemed to work, as the Panthers jumped out to a 12-3 lead and held on for a 25-18 win in the fourth to close out the match.
The loss dropped Wasilla to 2-6 in Northern Lights Conference play.
Johnson led Wasilla with 13 kills, while Welch added eight. Johnson also had a team-high seven blocks. Alex Firestack led the Warriors with 12 assists.
Massey led all players with 16 kills for Skyview, which improved to 4-4 in NLC play with the victory. Brittany Meyer had 14 kills for Skyview, while Jessie Bilderback picked up 12 digs to lead the Panthers.
Just three weeks remain in the regular season, and Kupferschmid said the crucial road victory against a conference opponent will help the Panthers build momentum heading into the season's homestretch.
"Everyone's fighting for seeds to go into regions, and it's always good to get a win far away from home," she said. "It's a feather in our cap."
Despite taking the tough home loss, Wasilla's Johnson said she believes the team has reason to be optimistic.
"It's like we play as a team and then all the sudden lose our intensity," she said. "But it's all going to come together. We'll get it by regions."
Johnson's coach agreed. While the Warriors have struggled to pick up wins in the regular season, Simmons said she believes the team has the talent to make a run once the postseason rolls around.
"Regionals is where it counts," she said. "I know they can do it."
On Saturday, Skyview dropped a nonconference match at Grace 25-13, 26-24 and 25-17. Grace is now 9-1 overall.
Contact Matt Tunseth at 352-2265 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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