The Susitna Valley Rams met the Nikiski Bulldogs Saturday for a volleyball match that initially shattered a few expectations, only to re-establish them later.
The visiting Rams defeated the Bulldogs in the first game, much to the surprise of both teams and their fans, but lost each subsequent game to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 victory in Region III/3A play. Nikiski is now 8-1 in the region.
"Su Valley ... played really well," said Nikiski coach Cherrie Hobart-Verkuilen. "They came out really intense and focused, and we struggled with our passing."
The team seemed to struggle throughout the first game. The Bulldogs watched one ball hit the floor when nobody went for it. After that, the Rams held their lead until the Bulldogs' Jessica Arness led the team in its effort to even the score. She scored five points, giving the Bulldogs the lead.
The Bulldogs seemed close to victory, leading the game 14-11, until they lost the serve. The Rams' Danielle Pratt served for five points, and the team won the game 16-14.
"Wake up, Bulldogs!" Nikiski fans shouted.
The team apparently heard them. Nikiski scored six unanswered points almost immediately in the next game and maintained their lead throughout for 15-4 victory. The next game was just as lopsided, with the Bulldogs winning 15-3, as was the last game, which the Bulldogs won 15-5.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Nikiski's Laura-Beth Covich tries to get the ball past Susitna Valley's Heidi Davis during the third game Saturday afternoon.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Su Valley coach Chad Valentine thought the game was an eye opener for the Rams.
The first game's victory "showed my girls what they're capable of," he said.
Valentine said the team had been in a slump recently but is now "back on the improving end."
Hobart-Verkuilen said she should have recognized the potential the Rams had before the match began.
"I don't think we showed them the respect they deserve as an opponent," she said. She said she thought the Bulldogs were too confident going into the game and were simply lackadaisical as a result.
"That was evident in the score," she said.
Hobart-Verkuilen also cited inconsistency as a problem for the Bulldogs.
"The most consistent thing about us was our inconsistency," she said.
Senior Bulldog Laura Berdahl agreed.
"We can play tons better than we played yesterday or today," she said.
In Saturday's match, Berhdal had seven kills. Mindy Cason had five kills. Berhdal had seven blocks; Cason had three.
The Bulldogs won against Houston on Friday, 3-1. Nikiski won the first game, 15-10, the second game, 15-8, and the fourth game, 15-11. Houston won the third game, 15-7.
Berhdal had eight kills against Houston. Arness had seven kills.
Saturday's game was the last home game for Bulldogs seniors. After the game, an announcer called out their names as they ran across the floor to present flower bouquets to their parents.
The Bulldogs will face Anchorage Christian Schools Thursday and will then play in the Dimond-Service Tournament next weekend. Hobart-Verkuilen said she expects that event to reveal the team's real strengths and weaknesses, and said she's looking forward to seeing the Bulldogs compete against 4A schools.
The Rams also will play in the Dimond Service Tournament.
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