Nikiski's Shalene Peek tips the ball over the net to Seward in the second of three games Friday night at Nikiski.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Once the host Nikiski volleyball team had Seward on the run on Friday night, the Bulldogs never gave the Seahawks a chance to even slow down to a jog.
Nikiski won the Southcentral Conference match 25-16, 25-19 and 25-9 to improve to 5-7 overall and 2-3 in the league. Seward still sits with one win this season.
"They finally came and played an entire match," Nikiski coach Sharon Thompson said. "That's something I've been challenging them to do all year. We'll always be up early in games, then the other team will come back to make it 26-24. This team has to learn to take a lead and play with it."
The Bulldogs never came close to losing a lead on Friday. In the first game, Nikiski held a 12-10 lead when Tasha Thompson ripped off four straight service points for a 16-10 advantage. Seward would get no closer than five points the rest of the game.
Nikiski made a similar run in the second game. Maddie Knoll had four straight service points, including an ace and a serve the Seahawks couldn't return, for a 17-10 advantage. Seward would later cut the gap to 23-19 on two service points from Ivana Banic, but Shalene Peek got the Bulldogs to 24-19 with a big kill, then Danielle Bower finished off Seward with a service point.
Even with a 2-0 lead, the Bulldogs did not show any signs of letting up. Thompson started the third game with four service points, Hillary Bogard had three points for a 16-6 lead, then Bower had five points to run the score all the way to 24-8.
"We couldn't be aggressive on the attack because we didn't pass the ball well," Seward coach Jennifer McDonald said. "When we were able to get the ball to the setter in a good position, she was able to get a good set up and we were able to get the ball down."
Nikiski coach Thompson said the Seahawks are better than their record indicates. She said she knew Seward could be dangerous. Once the Seahawks were out of rhythm, Nikiski never allowed them a chance to get rhythm back.
"We definitely worked a lot harder than Nikiski, and that was our fault," McDonald said.
Peek, who finished with 10 kills and nine blocks, was one of the Bulldogs keeping the pressure on Seward.
"We recognized they weren't passing really well," Peek said. "We knew we had to take advantage of that."
After just playing the front row most of the time last season, Peek plays the front and back rows this season.
"That was something I challenged her to do at the end of last year when I knew I would be taking over the program," Thompson said. "With some of the players we were losing, I knew we would need somebody who could take care of business at the net, but also could go and play the back row."
Peek said staying on the floor was an adjustment at first.
"I'm really enjoying it now," she said. "It's a lot more exciting being out there all the time."
Hillary Bogard also kept the pressure on with 14 assists and with timely tips that often went for kills. "She did a really good job of mixing it up tonight," Thompson said.
Also for Nikiski, Rachel Bogard had four kills and seven digs and Bower had six digs.
Ivana Banic paced Seward with three kills. McDonald also said Tarrah Beals had a great match.
"No matter where the ball was at, she got to it and kept it in play," McDonald said. "Without her, it would have been much worse."
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