The Soldotna Stars volleyball team survived five sets against the Houston Hawks Saturday.
Soldotna won the second, third and fifth games 16-14, 15-6 and 15-10. The fifth game, a tie-breaker, lasted for nearly 50 serves with match point taking 12 serves and seeing eight service changes.
Coach Pako Whannell said she had expected more from her team Saturday.
"Oh my goodness," Whannell said. "I thought since this was the last home game, they would be excited and up. We were not playing like we played Kenai and like we played Wasilla."
Houston coach Gary Walker was pleased with his team's performance despite the loss.
"I feel real good about the way the girls played, being a 3A team," Walker said. "For a five-game match, you can't ask for more. Both teams gutted it out. Considering where we've come from, you can't complain."
Walker said three of the girls on his team, senior Joelle Nicoll, and juniors Camile Putnam and Linnea Pudwill, had not played in at least two years.
"We've come a long way," he said.
Whannell said she tried many combinations to pick up her team after they started the match with a 7-15 loss, fought for a close victory in the second game and were overwhelmed in the fourth game. She said she continued going through substitutions trying to get some life out of her players, but came up with little of what she was looking for.
"No one was on today," Whannell said.
Hillary Zobeck, who finished the day with 16 kills, admitted to feeling a bit tired, having been swept by Wasilla the night before. Soldotna lost to Wasilla Friday night in three games: 15-9, 15-1 and 15-10.
"It's the third game in a row," Zobeck said. "We're a little worn."
Soldotna's 2-8 record in Region III has earned it a bottom seed in the regional tournament which begins Thursday and continues until Saturday. The Stars will have ongoing games for the duration of the tournament. And they will face top-seeded Wasilla again in their first game.
"We'll have to play really hard," said junior Rachel Besse.
And that means matching up with the best in the region. But Whannell said she has plans to rejuvenate her weary team.
"We're going to work on defense," Whannell said. "It's always inconsistent. Same for our attacks and passing. I just want the girls to play their best."
Zobeck, however, has already started to look for the silver lining in the Star's impending shadow. "If we get past Wasilla, the region is up in the air," she said.
Besse had 12 kills and six blocks, Haley Smith had 10 kills, Ashley Duwe had seven kills, and Jenna Pitts had five kills.
The Region III volleyball tournament will begin Thursday in Wasilla.
Homer clinches second in region
After clinching the No. 2 seed in Region III's Southern Division with a Friday victory over Palmer, the host Homer volleyball team dropped a match to Colony Saturday.
The Mariners, who finished with a 5-5 record in the region, came into the two games needing to win one of them in order to assure they would finish ahead of Kenai in the league standings.
Friday, they got it done with a 16-14, 15-8, 11-15 and 15-8 victory over the Moose.
Saturday, Colony swept Homer with 15-9, 15-8 and 15-4 victories.
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