Skyview junior Chelsie Martin returns the ball to Wasilla in the second game Thursday on the opening day of the Region III 4A volleyball tournament at Soldotna High School.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The Kenai Central and Skyview high school volleyball teams are one step closer to and one win away from reaching the state tournament.
“One day at a time,” said Kenai coach Jason Diorec after the Kardinals defeated Kodiak in three games in the opening round of the Northern Lights Conference tournament Thursday at Soldotna High School.
In Thursday’s other opening-round matches, Palmer defeated Homer in three games, Skyview downed Wasilla in three games, and Colony beat the host Stars in three games.
The Kardinals opened their match with a 25-7 win and had a big lead early in the second game en route to a 25-11 victory. Kenai led by 10 points in the third game, letting up just a little before polishing off the match with a 25-14 win.
“We got exactly what we wanted. We worked hard for it,” Kenai setter Kendra Steiner said of opening the tournament with a win. “We’re trying not to underestimate anyone, but we’re pretty confident. We’re pretty confident in each other.”
That confidence showed on the court where Steiner rarely had to look to make sure her hitters were in position.
“Our hitting is really, really good. Every hitter has been coming up with big plays every game, pulling stuff off that I think other teams are kind of amazed at,” Steiner said. “I have a really versatile team. They get where they’re supposed to be. I can count on them all the time.”
Diorec said his biggest concern, frequently, is making sure his team doesn’t let up once it gets a lead.
“Not to take away from Kodiak, but the biggest opponent we have is ourselves,” Diorec said. “I was on them constantly to keep them consistent through every single point, all the way to 25.”
“That’s what we’re working on for state if we’re lucky enough to go is being intense all game long and firing back every point,” Steiner said.
The Kardinals expect a battle when they face Palmer today.
“Palmer is a strong team. I think it’s going to be a very good match. Hopefully, we come out on top,” Steiner said.
Skyview 3, Wasilla 0
The Panthers had a battle on their hands Thursday, playing three nail-biting games against Wasilla. Skyview led early in each game only to see the Warriors fight back to within a point or two.
In the first game, a pair of blocks by Saundra Fife turned the momentum Wasilla’s way, and the Warriors made up a nine-point deficit, tying the game at 24, then taking a one-point lead when a Skyview hit was snared in the net.
Skyview’s Alex West notched a kill on the next rally, though, and Jennifer Holland connected on two big serves to secure the 27-25 win.
Skyview was up by 11 points in the second game before a six-point service run by Wasilla’s Makiah Podbielski.
Missy Massey recorded a tip-kill to end the run, and after Wasilla struck for two more points, Michelle Hicks steadied the Panthers with three straight service points, getting a kill from Massey for a 20-14 lead. Skyview maintained its advantage for a 25-19 win.
“We just kind of get in a rut every once in a while, but then we bring it back together and start playing again,” said Skyview setter Melissa Fay.
In the third game, Skyview and Wasilla went back and fourth early. Anna Bonebrake opened a four-point service run with a pair of aces, giving the Panthers a 21-12 lead, and Holland again hit a pair of strong serves to close out the match with a 25-16 win.
“Our defense did pretty well. When our defense does real well, everything else flows together and we play well,” Fay said.
Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid credited Bonebrake with setting the tone for the Panthers throughout the match. Bonebrake had a pair of kills to open the first game and played well both at the net and in the back row all night.
“Offensively, she found the zone with her serve. That’s extra for us. It helped pull us through,” Kupferschmid said.
Fay said that with other hitters playing well, too, setting was simplified.
“I was able to set the ball to different people and they were able to take care of it,” Fay said. “It makes me feel a lot better not having to set to one person all the time.”
Colony 3, Soldotna 0
The Stars showed flashes of their potential in dropping their tournament opener to a powerful Colony squad.
“The girls did bring some intensity to the court today,” said Soldotna coach Pako Whannell, adding that her squad did not play as well when they faced Colony last weekend.
“We were digging a lot of balls where last week they were hitting the floor.”
Still, the Stars’ effort wasn’t enough to overcome the hitting of Kelcy Joynt, who was dominant at the net and finished off the second game of the match with nine straight points from the service line for a 25-13 Colony win.
Colony took the first game 25-11 and polished off the match with a 25-11 win in game three.
Hannah Curtis also was impressive at the net for the Knights while Soldotna’s Paige Blackburn made some big plays for the Stars.
Whannell said she was pleased with the play of Jenna Fowler and Laura Harro in the back row and was glad to see Lauren Sennette, Dani Donaldson and Jordan Love pick up some kills in the front row.
“I think everybody gave a great effort today,” Whannell said.
Whannell is hoping for a good showing against Wasilla.
“The girls really want to go out and win a playoff game,” Whannell said.
Palmer 3, Homer 0
The Palmer Moose advanced to the semifinals on the strength of a three-game win over Homer.
Palmer won game one 25-10, then took game two 25-19. The Moose won the third game 25-15 to clinch the match.
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