Kenai Central's senior volleyball players went out on a high note Tuesday evening, picking up a dominant three-game victory over the visiting Homer Mariners.
Kenai senior Jamie Peterson said the team's 25-17, 25-15, 25-15 win was special both because it was the Kardinals' final home game and because it gives the team much-needed momentum as the regular season draws to a close.
"It's not only important for the seniors but in the region we needed the win," Peterson said.
Peterson keyed the Kenai attack, banging home a team-high 10 kills on the evening. Peterson was often at the end of solid passes from fellow senior Kendra Steiner, who runs Kenai's offensive attack.
"It all starts with good passing," Peterson said. "Without passing it doesn't work."
Kenai was able to set up Peterson, Amber McGlasson and Samantha Calderwood (who each had eight kills) for scoring shots by continually frustrating the Homer attack something Kenai head coach Jason Diorec said is key to his team's success.
"It's all about defense for us and hustling and working hard," Diorec said.
Kenai was forced to deal with the challenge of facing two 6-foot middle hitters in Homer's Rachel Bornheimer and Reba Temple. Temple finished the night with a match-high 11 kills, while Bornheimer registered six.
Going up against taller players, Peterson said, is a challenge the Kardinals will have to learn to face if they're going to make a run deep into next week's Northern Lights Conference tournament and beyond.
"At regions and state they'll have big hitters," she said.
Homer coach Beth Trowbridge said she was pleased with the way her team was able to hang in the match against Kenai's potent attack.
"I was really proud of my middle hitters and what they were doing with the ball," she said.
Trowbridge gave Kenai credit for confusing Homer's defense by employing a mix of sets that kept Homer's blockers guessing all evening.
"They did a really good job of mixing up their offense and splitting up our blockers," she said.
Following a lengthy presentation to recognize Kenai's five seniors, the Kardinals came out groggy in the first game, with Homer taking a 12-11 advantage midway through the match. But when McGlasson left briefly with a twisted ankle, it seemed to give Kenai a reason to focus.
"I think that dialed them in a little bit," Diorec said.
Following the McGlasson injury, Kenai was able to take 16 of the next 24 points, including six consecutive service points from Kelsey Brewer to close out the game.
With McGlasson back in the lineup for the second game, Kenai looked unstoppable, rolling to an easy win that saw the Kardinals rack up kills on the final five points of the game, including three straight from Peterson to finish things off.
"She hits from the outside very well," Diorec said.
The third game was almost a formality, with the Kardinals pulling away easily after Homer worked to tie things at four early on. Calderwood finished the match off with a flourish, hammering Kenai's final point to the floor for her eighth kill of the evening and a decisive Kardinal win.
Next up for Kenai is a trip to the Mat-Su, where they'll face perennial powers Palmer and Colony a challenge Peterson said she believes Kenai is ready for.
"We are finally starting to peak and play hard all the time," she said.
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