Soldotna's Dani Donaldson digs deep for the ball in the third game against Kodiak Friday night at SoHi.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Good was not good enough for the host Soldotna volleyball team Friday night in a Northern Lights Conference match against Kodiak.
The Stars were swept in the match 25-16, 25-19 and 25-20. Soldotna falls to 0-6 in the NLC while Kodiak improves to 1-4. Saturday, Soldotna came back and defeated Anchorage Christian Schools 25-17, 25-11 and 25-9 to move its overall record to 2-7.
"We didn't really lack in one area," Soldotna coach Pako Whannell said after Friday's match. "We didn't miss a lot of serves. We didn't let balls drop. We were consistently aggressive with our serves.
"We made errors here and there and that catches up to you."
Especially against the Kodiak squad Rick Carman is molding. Due to budget cuts, the Bears will only get in 14 matches in the regular season this year. Kodiak showed it is getting a lot of learning out of each one.
On Oct. 7 and 8, Kodiak lost home matches to Skyview. The Bears made 20 service errors the first day and 15 service errors the second day.
"We wrote them a check for 35 points," Carman said. "There are too many close games where those points matter."
Friday, Soldotna benefited from just two Kodiak service errors. Carman said he didn't think Kodiak's serving aggressiveness suffered due to the improved accuracy. Whannell agreed the Bears still served aggressive.
"I just told them to really focus when they step up to the line," said Carman, whose team was led by Chelsea Filburn's four aces. "It's the one time in volleyball they're in control of the situation. I told them to take advantage of that."
In addition to the serving accuracy, Kodiak made life tough for Soldotna using team defense. Carman said his squad does not have a lot of height compared to many of Kodiak's opponents. This makes digging the ball up and getting it back over the net very important.
"If we can get the ball back over, we're giving their offense another opportunity, but their offense also has an opportunity to make a mistake," Carman said.
There were many long rallies where Kodiak never mounted a strong attack, but kept digging up Soldotna's attacks until the Stars made a mistake. Brianne Johnson led that effort with 12 digs.
Whannell said the Bears were leaving a big hole in the middle behind their tall middle blockers and spreading out to protect the lines. The SoHi coach said Paige Blackburn (eight kills) and Lauren Sennette (six kills) were doing a good job hitting the gap in the middle. Dani Donaldson (six kills) found a hole over a smaller Kodiak blocker on the side, while Jordan Love added three kills for the Stars.
Whannell also said Jenna Fowler, Laura Harro, Sara Heminger and Liz Rohloff did a good job picking up Kodiak's attack.
"What matters most is what happens at regions," Whannell said. "I've told the girls not to focus on the win-loss record, but to focus on how much better they are playing."
Saturday, the Stars topped ACS as Donaldson had eight kills, Blackburn and Sennette had five kills and Jordan Love and Megan Duwe had three kills.
Blackburn had five kill blocks, while Jenna Fowler had three aces serves and Sennette had two ace serves.
"There was a lot of playing time for the younger girls," Whannell said. "They played in the last game and did very well. Everybody who got playing time did very well."
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