It's hard to say whether senior night helped or hurt Kenai Tuesday night in its volleyball victory over Skyview.
The Kardinals were all pumped up to honor seniors Ali DeMello and Heather McIntyre before and during the match, but that desire to honor them almost backfired.
After stumbling to a 25-20 loss in the first game, Kenai recovered for 25-19, 25-13 and 25-22 victories.
"We were overconfident, to tell you the truth," said Kenai's Jamie Peterson. "We weren't quite warmed up. Everything they were putting over the net in the first game was going down on us."
Before the match, each of the Kardinals presented DeMello and McIntyre with gifts. While McIntyre said the gesture was appreciated, she wanted to come away from Tuesday night with more than just gifts.
"We lost to Skyview last year on senior night," McIntyre said. "We didn't want that to happen again."
Skyview has just one win in region play, but the Panthers were poised to knock off Kenai. Skyview has a number of offensive weapons in Jackie Bates (12 kills), Anna Bonebrake (10 kills), Lindsay Gephardt (eight kills) and Amanda Fay (six kills). All were clicking in that first game.
"Skillwise, I'd like to think we are right with Kenai," Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid said. "The difference in the two teams is mental."
Considering the talent Skyview flashed at times Tuesday, McIntyre said she is surprised at Skyview's win total. Peterson agrees.
"The reason Skyview doesn't have a lot of wins is because they didn't get off to a good start this season," Peterson said. "We've been solid all season.
"Skyview's been rising, and they're coming up to our level. I think they'll surprise some people at regions."
Feeling threatened on its home floor on senior night, Kenai responded in the second game.
"Coach (Jason Diorec) told us to stop playing their game and to start playing our game," McIntyre said. "He said if we started playing our game they would fall apart.
"He was right."
The Panthers stuck right with the Kardinals in the second game and had the score tied at 10. Then Peterson ripped off five straight points at the service line to give Kenai a 15-10 cushion. Soon after, Kendra Steiner served for three straight points and Kenai had an insurmountable 21-13 lead.
Skyview was never really in the fourth game as a bunch of errors contributed to the 25-13 loss.
"Every match this year, it seems like we go through a mental letdown," Kupferschmid said.
The coach also mentioned that setter Jennifer Holland was sick. Holland would get woozy at times, forcing her to come out of the game. This added to Skyview's inconsistency.
Skyview rebounded in the fourth game. The game was close throughout, and Gephardt tied it at 20 with a kill.
McIntyre and Peterson answered with kills, and after another Gephardt kill, Peterson added another kill to make it 23-21. After Skyview notched another point, kills by Peterson and Sam Calderwood ended the match.
Peterson said her strong performance down the stretch was a tribute to the team's two seniors.
"I've only been here for three months playing volleyball because I transferred in," Peterson said. "Just in that time, those two have made a huge difference in my life.
"They're not only great volleyball players. They're also great people."
Homer 3, Soldotna 1
The host Mariners lost the first game 25-23 before rallying for 25-21, 25-13 and 25-13 victories in Region III/4A action.
Homer moves to 5-4 in Region III and 7-4 overall. Soldotna drops to 1-7 in the region and 1-11 overall.
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