Nikiski's Georgia Heaverley celebrates the match-winning point in the third game against Grace Christian Saturday afternoon.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Appropriately, Nikiski senior volleyball players Stacey Griffel, Sasha Auldridge, Amber Huhndorf and Georgie Heaverley left their home floor for the last time as winners.
The Bulldogs swept Grace Christian on Saturday and Heritage Christian on Friday to complete the regular season at 10-0 in the Southcentral Conference and 16-0 overall. Nikiski will be the No. 1 seed at the Southcentral Conference tournament at Grace Christian Thursday through Saturday.
With the Friday and Saturday victories, Nikiski has gone 48-9 over the last three years.
"They got their feet wet as freshmen, when they had a 5-13 record," Nikiski coach Bruce King said of the departing four. "They've obviously improved a lot. I'm very proud of them."
Griffel, who had five kills from her setter position Saturday against Grace, was sad to step off the Nikiski floor for the last time as a volleyball player.
"I wish I could come back next year, but they won't let me," Griffel said. "It was definitely fun while it lasted."
Nikiski's's Hannah Thompson dives short for the ball in the first of three games against Grace Christian Saturday afternoon.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Nikiski needed all the senior cool it could muster in the first game against Grace, when a slow start put the Bulldogs in a 21-13 hole.
Griffel said the Bulldogs got off to a slow start because some recent opponents haven't required Nikiski to turn up the defensive intensity. Griffel also said she had no doubt that Nikiski would come back and win the game.
The Grizzlies pushed the score to 24-21 before the Bulldogs made their move. A kill by Shayna Pritchard earned Nikiski the serve back, then Auldridge served for four straight points.
Junior Hannah Thompson, who finished with 17 kills and eight blocks, had kills to nail down the final two points of the 26-24 victory. Sherra Pritchard also had a kill during the run.
"I think that first game was just the senior experience they just don't rattle," King said. "And then you throw Hannah into the mix. They're not going to roll over for anybody."
King has a lot of respect for the Grizzlies, who finished 10-2 overall and 8-2 in the conference with both losses coming to Nikiski. King said Grace is a good hitting team and blocks as well as any team he has seen this year.
The Nikiski coach said the sweep had a lot to do with the Game 1 comeback taking the wind out of Grace's sails, but Grace coach Janet Kinney said Nikiski was able to sweep due to superior defense.
Kinney said the Bulldogs were able to dig balls, then set up their hitters. Grace would dig balls, but often could not mount an attack.
"We have five good hitters on this team, so we're never in a position where we don't have good hitters in the front row," Kinney said. "They just need more chances to hit."
King said his team constantly works on transitioning from defense to offense.
"The great digging teams can dig all they want, but if you can't turn it into offense, eventually a good offensive team will beat you," King said.
The Bulldogs had 63 digs as a team, with Auldridge getting 15 and Griffel collecting 12.
King said Griffel is key in turning defense into offense. The coach said Griffel is the most mobile setter in the state, allowing her to turn awkward digs into attackable sets.
"That's the funnest part running and diving for balls and knowing I still have to set the ball in the right spot," Griffel said. "Somehow, I always get it there."
With Griffel setting the ball, the Bulldogs closed out the match with 25-17 and 25-20 victories.
King said the Grizzlies were overloading their blocking to one side to stop Thompson, but that the Bulldogs were still able to free Thompson up. That meant Thompson was hitting some different shots, but she passed the test.
"She's good at placing hits," Kinney said of Thompson. "Some players hit it the same place every time, but she is very smart about her hitting."
Also for Nikiski, Sherra Pritchard had nine blocks while Shayna Pritchard had five kills.
For Grace, Katelyn Perry and Liz Metcalf had six kills and Lauren Slaymaker had five kills. Davina Kinney had 10 digs while Rebekah Marselus had eight blocks and Beth Balistereri had 22 assists.
Nikiski won Friday's match over Heritage 25-11, 25-16 and 25-17. The match was Senior Night, with the four seniors, in addition to manager Jackie Palm, getting honored.
Thompson had 12 aces, 10 digs, seven kills and two blocks in the match. Griffel had 11 assists and 10 digs. Heaverley, in her first significant action after a sprained ankle, had two kills.
Also for Nikiski, Clare Bennett had three aces, Sherra Pritchard had four kills and three blocks, Kyla Jorgensen had three kills and Flossie Jorgensen had two blocks.
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