Down two games to one on Friday to Palmer in the Northern Lights Conference volleyball semifinals at Skyview High School, the host Panthers needed to pull out something special to stay alive against in Moose.
So they proceeded to rack up 20 kills and one stuff block while committing just two hitting errors. Skyview missed just one serve in the game, although the Panthers passed errantly on four serve-receives and were called for being out of rotation once.
So, on to game five, right?
Not against the steady-as-gravity Moose.
Palmer punctuated a night of efficient volleyball with a nearly perfect fourth game, edging the Panthers 25-22, 25-17, 20-25 and 28-26. The win put Palmer in the finals and gave the Moose a trip to state.
"They played a flawless match," Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid said after her team absorbed just its third loss in a best-of-five-game match this year. "They did. To come on our home floor at regions and do what they did takes a lot of mental toughness."
The Moose were at their best in the fourth game, a spellbinder that saw Skyview take a 5-2 lead early, the only time in the game a team would lead by more than two.
"I love the high school game," Palmer coach Steve Reynolds said. "I love games that are played at this level of play. You don't get to this level of play until the end of the season."
In addition to the 20 kills and one stuff block, Skyview collected its other five points in the fourth game on Palmer hitting errors.
That meant Palmer did not flub any serve-receive tries in the fourth game, which made sense because the Moose only failed on serve-receive three times in the entire match.
"If you control the ball well, you can attack with some sting and keep teams off-balance," Reynolds said. "Part of our plan was not to let Skyview get in rhythm.
"When they get in rhythm, they're a machine."
The Moose also did not hit any of their serves out in the fourth game, which meant they only missed four serves in the entire match.
"That's the game," Kupferschmid said. "It's whoever makes less errors. Palmer did not make very many errors tonight."
In the fourth game, Jaxon Hill tied the score at 26 with her 18th and final kill of the evening.
"What a workhorse," Kupferschmid said of the senior, who added seven blocks. "I cannot say enough about Jaxon Hill. When she gets the ball, she does the right things with it.
"More than anything else, she's a great kid."
Palmer junior setter Jenna Arlow answered Hill's kill with a tip kill for match point. Three of Palmer's final 10 points came on crafty tip kills by Arlow, who had 32 assists and four aces.
"She's one I talk a lot about and she's only a junior," Reynolds said. "She has always had a feel for the game, even in junior high."
Kendal Venzke then finished the Panthers off with a kill. A week earlier, Skyview had defeated Palmer in four games, but the Moose were missing Venzke. She had 12 kills and 10 digs.
"She's back and you saw her in full force tonight," Reynolds said.
The match also started off with a tight game, with the score tied at 22. Palmer took the lead with a diving dig that creeped over the net for a kill. Next, Skyview got a block on a Palmer attack, but made a poor pass. On game point, the Panthers were called for being out of rotation.
Just like in the first game, Palmer never let Skyview take the lead in the second. The Panthers missed five serves in the game, while Palmer did not miss any.
"We made too many service errors," Kupferschmid said. "We typically don't make that many."
In the third game, Palmer threatened a sweep by bolting to a 6-1 lead. For the first time all night, though, a string of loose play featuring a missed serve, a bad pass and two hitting errors let Skyview back in the game.
When Hill had a kill for a 10-9 lead, the Panthers were in front for the first time all night. Three straight hitting errors by the Moose gave Skyview a 23-17 lead and, essentially, the game.
None of that mattered when Palmer reverted to punctilious play in the fourth.
Libero Megan Morfe had 16 digs for Palmer, while Jessica Dennis had 12 kills and four blocks.
Thit Bak had 14 kills and nine service points for Skyview, while Alicia West had eight kills and six service points. Amanda McDowell had nine service points and four kills, while Rebecca Egan had 10 digs and Caity Marang had six blocks.
Wasilla 3, Colony 1
The Warriors, who went 10-0 during the regular season to take the top seed from the Northern Division, defeated the Knights to advance to the championship.
The scores were 25-21, 25-21, 20-25 and 25-21.
Soldotna 3, Kenai 0
The Stars ended the season of the Kardinals and made their way into the third-place semifinals. The scores were 27-25, 25-18 and 25-21.
Kaycee Munn led Soldotna with nine kills, and also tied Kylee Woodford for the team led in digs with 11. Julie Litchfield added nine digs and six assists for the Stars, while Heidi Westerman had nine digs and 16 assists. Litchfield and Westerman each had two aces.
Kaillee Skjold had six blocks (three stuff) for the Stars, and also added eight kills. Becca Satathite had two aces, while Jessie Duke had five kills.
Kodiak 3, Homer 0
The Knights swept the Moose in the third-place semifinals to end the Mariners' season and cruise into the third-place semifinals. The scores were 25-15, 25-11 and 25-13.
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