Grace Christian volleyball coach Janet Kinney said Nikiski played much better defense than her team did. Nikiski coach Sharon Thompson was not happy with her team's defense.
If volleyball coaches are fixated on defense, the postseason can't be far behind.
Both the Grizzlies and Bulldogs completed their regular season with a Southcentral Conference match on Saturday in Nikiski. Grace swept the match 25-15, 25-17 and 25-16 to end the regular season with a 6-0 record in the conference and a 10-2 nontournament record overall. The Grizzlies will be the No. 1 seed at the four-team conference tournament and will play Seward in the first round.
Nikiski finishes with a 2-4 record in the conference and a 6-9 record overall. The Bulldogs will be seeded third at the conference tournament and will face Anchorage Christian Schools in the first round.
The Grizzlies showed why they are the top seed on Saturday, using a well-balanced attack get past Nikiski. Lauren Slaymaker had 13 kills, two blocks and eight digs, but Hannah Johnson pitched in with six kills and Kate Ferrin and Lindsey McKnight had five kills apiece. The attack was orchestrated by setter Allison Pargeter, who had 31 assists and 13 digs.
"Everyone was hitting well," Kinney said. "Sometimes we have to just rely on Lauren, but it's always easier when all of our hitters are having good days. Going into regions, we don't want to be relying on just one person."
Thompson was not happy with Nikiski's blocking.
"We did not get up and block at the net," she said. "Against Soldotna, we had 31 blocks. We did not even get close to that today."
In Nikiski's victory over Soldotna earlier this month, Soldotna coach Bruce King was frustrated because the Stars did not get much attacking help from anyone but Paige Blackburn in the game. That wasn't the case on Saturday for Grace, because Slaymaker had plenty of help.
"They have a lot of weapons," Thompson said of Grace. "They are a lot better when it isn't just Lauren all the time."
But Thompson said she thinks her team can play with Grace. One of the Grizzlies' losses this year is to Soldotna.
"We can play with anyone in the region," Thompson said. "It all starts with our defense. Our defense can fuel our offense."
Saturday's match had some long rallies with both teams making multiple digs, but Kinney isn't ready to declare her defense ready for the postseason.
"I think there were a lot of long rallies today, but I think Nikiski's defense was better than ours," she said. "That's something we need to work on this week."
In the first game, Grace had an 18-15 lead when Slaymaker had a kill to give the serve to herself. She then served out the last six points of the match. In the second game, Nikiski again was right with Grace until a big service run. Kristie Hofseth, who had 18 digs in the match, had eight straight service points to give the Grizzlies a 22-12 lead.
In the third game, Nicole Leman had five service points and Hofseth had three service points for a 10-3 lead. Nikiski attempted a comeback when four service points from Hillary Bogard and two from Tasha Thompson made it 19-13, but the Bulldogs got no closer than that.
Shalene Peek had seven kills to lead Nikiski, while Rachel Romans had six kills. Thompson said Romans had a great game at the net. The coach also said the Hillary Bogard, who had 15 assists, did a superb job of tracking down balls. On defense, Tasha Thompson had 10 digs and Danielle Bower had nine digs.
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