Northern Lights Conference volleyball championship begins today at Skyview

Posted: Thursday, November 04, 2010

Skyview comes into the Marathon Oil Northern Lights Conference tournament with the top seed from the Southern Division, home-floor advantage and a four-game victory over first-round opponent Kodiak this year.

In the roller-coaster game that is volleyball, though, all of that stuff doesn't mean much. Just look back to last season, when Soldotna came in as the No. 1 seed from the Southern Division and lost in the first round to Kodiak. Skyview faces the Bears at 7 p.m. today.

"Volleyball is such a momentum sport," Kenai Central coach John Kennedy said. "When a team gets on a roll, you never know what will happen."

Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid said she hopes three tournament-tested seniors will lead the way for the Panthers. They are Jaxon Hill, Alicia West and Rebecca Egan. Senior Caity Marang is a key player who doesn't have as much tournament experience.

"We've done everything that we needed to do heading into the tournament so our confidence should be high," said Kupferschmid, whose team has a 9-1 record in conference play. "These seniors have a good supporting cast around them in the junior class."

Two important juniors are Amanda McDowell and libero Mary Hauptman. Thit Bak, 6-foot-0 transfer student, gives the Panthers another potent weapon.

Kupferschmid also said she wants to put a seventh player on the floor in the form of vocal support from the student body.

"The student body has been very supportive as far as following us," Kupferschmid said. "I hope they show up, because it really is an added factor in terms of our success."

The coach said another important factor will be both serving and returning serve. Nothing swings the momentum of a match faster than flubbing on six or seven straight serve-receive attempts.

"We have to win the serve and serve-receive game," Kupferschmid said. "If we don't do that, we won't be successful."

Bruce King, whose Soldotna team recovered from that first-round loss last year to take third at the tournament, agrees that defense, serving and unforced errors are crucial in tournament volleyball.

The Stars, seeded second from the Northern Division with a 4-6 record, play Colony at 3 p.m. today. Soldotna lost to the Knights in four games earlier this season.

King said his team is better than it was at the time of the loss, but he also said the Knights have improved.

"We are a much better floor defensive team than the last time we played them," King said. "We've worked on that a lot in the last couple of weeks."

The coach said that his team had too many unforced errors in the match against the Knights. In order to win, those unforced errors cannot happen.

King said senior Rebecca Satathite has been taking quality swings for his squad lately, while fellow senior Jessie Duke also must have a solid tournament for the team to do well. Soldotna also can give teams problems with the blocking duo of junior Sydney Goggia and sophomore Kaillee Skjold.

Kennedy's Kenai squad, which finished 0-10 in the league to earn the No. 4 seed from the south, faces top-seeded Wasilla today at 1 p.m. The Warriors are undefeated in the league and suffered their first nontournament loss of the year on Friday in five games against Grace Christian.

Wasilla swept Kenai in three games last weekend. Kennedy said a big problem for the Kardinals was returning the Warriors' tough serve.

"We know what we're facing from last weekend," the coach said. "It was a tough day for the kids and they're not happy with themselves."

Kennedy said his squad realizes it will take a perfect effort on defense and offense to topple the Warriors. He also said his team is looking forward to putting forth a much better effort.

"It's going to take all 12 players coming together as a team," he said. "Our big players will have to play well, but it's going to take all 12 playing together for us to do well."

The final match of the day will feature Homer, the No. 3 seed from the south, against Palmer, the second seed from the north. The two square off at 5 p.m.

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