The Skyview volleyball team won its seventh straight nontournament match Tuesday at Skyview by sweeping Homer in a Northern Lights Conference tilt.
The Panthers are now 9-5 overall and 5-1 in the NLC, while Homer dropped to 0-6 in the NLC.
Although the records of the two teams are very different, Skyview did not cruise to victory in any of Tuesday's games. The Panthers won by scores of 25-19, 25-23 and 25-22.
In each game, the common theme was Skyview's experience taking control over Homer's inexperience when the game came to crunch time.
Homer coach Beth Trowbridge said her young team has shown continuous improvement this season. Senior Bailey Lowney, who had seven kills and 12 digs, is the only full-time varsity player returning from last season. One of Homer's other experienced players, Brittney VanSandt, could not make the match because she was performing in a choir concert.
"One of my players, Rachel (Bornheimer), told me after the match that she hates those close games because they are so scary and intense too intense," Trowbridge said of the underclassman middle hitter. "Next year, she'll have the confidence of a year playing varsity and she'll be playing to win in those situations.
"Skyview has some experienced varsity players, and they knew what to do in those situations."
Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid gave credit to junior Anna Bonebrake, who has been on varsity for three years, and seniors Cady Bon and Amber Kunz for steadying the team in the close games.
Even though Skyview is battling for the NLC Southern Division's top seed, Kupferschmid said matches against Soldotna and Kenai last week and a long tournament over the weekend left the Panthers vulnerable to a letdown. She said Bonebrake (11 kills, five blocks), Kunz (nine kills, 12 of 14 on digs and 16 of 19 on serve-receive) and Bon (10 points on serve, six kills) were not about to allow that letdown to happen.
In the first game, the score was 21-18 in favor of the Panthers but Skyview's Amy Arestad had a kill, Kendra Groves had an ace and Homer had a hitting error to make it 24-18. After Homer's Amanda Conley had a kill, Bon ended the game with a kill of her own.
Skyview jumped out to a 23-15 lead in the second game, but Lowney ripped off eight straight service points to knot the score at 23. However, the Mariners handed the match to the Panthers by committing a net violation and hitting error.
"Give Bailey credit," Kupferschmid said. "She has a great serve."
However, by the second game, Kupferschmid said she was getting more and more frustrated with her team's positioning on defense. Time and time again, the Mariners, led by Lowney and her seven kills, were having success tipping the ball and catching Skyview off-guard by attacking on the second hit.
"Our floor play was rough tonight, really rough," Kupferschmid said.
"We weren't in good position when Homer tipped the ball back quickly. We've got to work on that."
In the third game, a Bon kill made it 22-20 in favor of Skyview, but Bornheimer, who finished with eight kills, came right back with a kill. A kill by Kunz put the Panthers up 24-21, and after a kill by Lowney, Kunz ended the match with another kill.
"We made progress tonight," Trowbridge said. "We played more to win than afraid to lose. In the past, we've been afraid to hit the ball when the game got close, but tonight at least we were going for it."
Homer also received five kills from Reba Temple. For Skyview, Jennifer Holland added 10 service points and Kupferschmid said Melissa Fay did a good job setting.
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