Members of the Soldotna volleyball team get together during the championship match of the Northern Lights Conference volleyball tournament on Saturday at Kodiak High School.
Photo by Jay Barrett/For the Pen
It’s not often a team leaves the court smilling after losing a championship game, but Soldotna was all grins and high-fives after losing to the Colony at the Northern Lights Conference volleyball tournament 25-18, 21-25, 25-20 and 25-23 in Kodiak on Saturday.
That’s because the Stars, like Colony, were No. 3 seeds coming into the tournament and weren’t expected to be in the championship game. But like Colony, both teams swept their competition and even defeated their respective division’s top-seeded teams on the way. For SoHi, it didn’t hurt their confidence that the Southern Division’s top seed was the Stars’ crosstown rivals, the undefeated Skyview Panthers.
“To give Skyview their first loss of the season was just awesome,” said SoHi coach Pako Whannell.
To get the championship game, the Stars, in a mild upset Thursday, beat the host Kodiak Bears, the Northern Division’s second seed, in five games, 20-25, 25-23 27-25, 20-25, 15-13. Then, on Friday, they stunned the Panthers 25-23, 23-25, 25-23, 25-22 to advance to the championship game.
The Stars head now to the state tournament next weekend along with Colony and third-place Palmer.
Soldotna, with only two NLC wins in the regular season, gelled at just the right time.
Skyview's Brittney Meyer (5) and Missy Massey (11) attempt to block Palmer's Ashley Dickerson in Saturday's third-place match at the Northern Lights Conference tournament at Kodiak High School.
Photo by Jay Barrett/For the Pen
“The girls really came together,” Whannell said, her voice hoarse from her sideline exhortations. “They really wanted to come out here and play, and they came together when it counted.
“I’m so proud of them.”
In the first game of the championship match, Colony came out quickly on the strength of its service game and junior Hannah Curtis’ play in the middle, but SoHi fought back, though still came up short 18-25.
In game two, SoHi went up early, taking a 14-8 lead, only to see Colony tie the game at 21. Strong serving by the Stars’ Lauren Senette, who had five aces in the match, secured the win at 25-21.
The third game was very close, with ties at 11, 14 and 17 points. After a late game timeout called by Colony with SoHi up 17-14, the Knights turned their game up a notch and won 25-20.
In game four, Colony was in control, but SoHi was never far behind, nipping at the Knights’ heels the entire way, until tying the game at 23. Two consecutive kills by Colony’s Curtis ended the game and match, and clinched the Northern Lights title 25-23.
“It was a Cinderella tournament for us,” said Colony coach Amy Carter. “We definitely didn’t think we’d be here (in the championship game).”
Colony came into the tournament as the two-time defending conference champs, but graduated seven players from last year’s team and only returned three. Nobody thought they had a chance of a three-peat, but it was deja vu all over again, as the team had graduated seven players the year before last and won the conference.
Carter said her team’s season changed about three weeks ago.
“We worked on not being so emotional, trying to keep our highs and lows in check,” she said. “We just wanted to stay steady, and we did.”
Colony’s Curtis had 15 kills in the match, along with three blocks and five service aces. She was named to the all-tournament team and also won the award for fastest serve, clocked at 43 mph. Desi Diselrod had all but one of Colony’s assists with 32, and added 10 digs. Micaela Stein had 17 digs. Krista Coan added four aces. Colony also took honors as the team with the highest grade
“I’m very proud of them for that. Having the highest GPA was one of their goals this year,” Carter said. “They’re very grade-oriented.”
Soldotna junior Paige Blackburn and senior Dani Donaldson both had a dozen kills in the championship match. Blackburn also had three blocks. Sarah Heminger had 29 assists, while Lauren Senette had five aces and 16 digs.
Palmer 3, Skyview 2
The Moose, the No. 1 seed from the Northern Division, came back from a two-game deficit to defeat the Panthers, the No. 1 seed from the south, in the third-place game and earn a trip to state.
The scores were 22-25, 15-25, 26-24, 25-23 and 15-7.
Sarah Svedin and Stephanie Houser had nine kills apiece for Palmer, while Ashley Dickerson added five blocks. Mariah Kincade had two aces and 18 digs, while Nicole Kenney had 21 digs and Ariana Cruz had nine assists. Svedin also had eight assists.
For the Panthers, Brittany Meyer had 13 kills and a block, while Claudiii Sohns, Jennifer Holland and Missy Massey each had nine kills. Alex West had three blocks. Also for Skyview, Melissa Fay had 36 assists, Holland had 22 digs and Sohns had three aces.
Skyview 3, Homer 0
The Panthers, the top seed from the Southern Division, swept the Mariners in the third-place semifinals.
The scores were 25-21, 25-22 and 25-20.
Palmer 3, Wasilla 0
The Moose, the No. 1 seed from the Northern Division, swept into the third-place match on Saturday by defeating the Warriors, the No. 4 seed from the north.
The scores were 25-23, 26-24 and 25-18.
Soldotna 3, Skyview 1
The Stars came into the conference tournament with just two conference wins, but they matched that total at the tournament to earn a trip to state.
Soldotna, the No. 3 seed from the Southern Division, defeated Skyview 25-23, 23-25, 25-23, 25-22 in the semifinals. The Panthers are the top seed from the south and had a 10-0 conference record in the regular season.
Christa Kennedy had 14 kills and two blocks for the Stars, while Paige Blackburn added six kills and three blocks. Also for the Stars, Sarah Heminger had 29 assists and an ace, Dani Donaldson had 18 digs, Lauren Senette had 12 digs and Jessi Stenga had an ace.
For the Panthers, Missy Massey had 12 kills and Jennifer Holland added eight kills. Melissa Fay had 36 assists, while Chelsea Martin had 19 digs, Claudiii Sohns had 18 digs and Alex West had an ace. West, Massey, Sohns and Fay each had a block for Skyview.
Colony 3, Palmer 2
The Knights, the No. 3 seed from the Northern Division, upset Palmer, the No. 1 seed from the north, on Friday in the semifinals.
The scores of the match were 25-23, 20-25, 16-25, 25-23, 15-13.
Hannah Curtis had 18 kills and six blocks for the Knights, while Krista Coen added 10 kills, 14 digs and four aces.
Homer 3, Kenai Central 2
The Mariners, the No. 2 seed from the Southern Division, defeated the Kardinals, the No. 4 seed from the south, on Friday to end Kenai’s season and advance to the third-place semifinals.
The scores of the match were 23-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-19 and 15-9.
Rachel Bornheimer had 17 kills and 17 digs for Homer, while Reba Temple added 21 kills and five digs.
Also for the Mariners, Jill Temple had nine blocks, Cora Trowbridge had three aces, Maelia Robinson had two aces, Piper Daugherty had nine digs and Erica Gavenus had 46 assists.
For the Kardinals, Kyla Steward had 18 kills, six blocks and five aces and Damaris Craig had three blocks and one ace. Also for Kenai, Samantha Navarre had eight kills, Devon Copple had 12 digs, Julie John had eight digs and Katie Foley had 30 assists.
Wasilla 3, Kodiak 1
The Warriors, the No. 4 seed from the north, defeated the Bears, the No. 2 seed from the north, on Friday to end Kodiak’s season and advance to the third-place semifinals.
Jenna Johnson had 16 kills and 11 blocks for Wasilla, while Megan Walker had 17 assists and Stephanie Blair had 13 assists.
For Kodiak, Alysa Horn had 21 kills, 18 digs and eight blocks, Roweena Yamat had 22 digs and Syrena Poulous had 29 assists.
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