The Soldotna High School volleyball team came out strong in the third-place match at the Region III/4A tournament Saturday at Skyview High School, recording a 15-5 win over the Homer Mariners in the first game.
As it turned out, the Mariners had the Stars right where they wanted them en route to a 3-1 victory and a berth in next week's state tournament -- the first trip to state for Homer since 1990.
"We always lose the first game," said Homer's Chelsea Ward. "It's kind of a tradition, I guess, then it's kind of like reality sets in.
"(Losing the first game) pretty much just gets us fired up and ready to play. It's a warmup, I guess."
While it's not a warm-up with which coach Beth Trowbridge is comfortable, it worked for the Mariners Saturday. After dropping the first game, Homer came back to win three straight, 15-5, 15-5, 15-2.
Ward led the way for the Mariners with 30 kills while teammate Holly McCune recorded 13 kills and mixed in five aces with her steady service game.
Nami Sato chipped in with three ace serves, and setter Sara Thompson had 39 set-assists.
The Mariners made it to the third-place match by defeating Colony 15-2, 15-5, 15-12 in Saturday morning's consolation-bracket semifinals. The Stars defeated Kodiak 15-3, 15-11, 15-13 in their consolation semifinal.
The Stars played gamely to the end, but never got the momentum to swing back their way after the first game.
"Usually in the first game, we're pretty sloppy. We're all really nervous and we're not playing smart, we're just playing kill the ball," Ward said. "Usually in the second and third games, we're playing smart, putting the ball down the lines or swinging for a spot and putting the ball somewhere where it will be a kill."
Trowbridge said that type of smart play was a necessity against Soldotna, which had strong play in the middle from Rachel Besse and solid outside hitting from Hillary Zobeck.
Ward said Saturday's match was the best the Mariners had put together as a team.
"The thing I was surprised about was that we played better in this match than we've ever played together," Ward said. "We played like a well-oiled machine. It was just amazing to me how awesome everybody was doing today. I don't think anyone was having an off game."
KODIAK 3, KENAI 2
The Kenai Central High School volleyball team bowed out of the Region III/4A tournament Friday with a five-game loss to Kodiak.
The Kardinals won the first game 15-11. Crystal Morris served for seven straight points to end the game, mixing a pair of aces into the run.
Kodiak won game two 15-8, but the Kardinals won game three 15-10. The Bears forced game five with a 15-13 win in game four.
In the deciding game, the Kardinals battled into extra points before the Bears were able to prevail 17-15.
KNIGHTS 3, WARRIORS 0
Colony eliminated defending state champion Wasilla from the Region III/4A tournament in three games Friday.
The Knights pulled out a 17-15 win in game one, and followed it up with a 15-4 win in game two and a 15-10 win in game three.
MOOSE 3, MARINERS 0
The Palmer Moose advanced to the championship game with a three-game win over Homer in the Region III/4A tournament Friday.
Palmer took the first game 15-9, won the second game 15-8 and followed up with a 15-4 win in the third game.
PANTHERS 3, STARS 0
The Skyview Panthers advanced to the Region III/4A title game on the strength of a three-game win over Soldotna in Friday's semifinals.
The Panthers took the first game 15-11, but the Stars were able to push Skyview to extra points in the second game before the Panthers prevailed 17-15. Skyview finished the match with a 15-10 win in the third game.
All-Region III/4A Volleyball Team
Southern Division MVP -- Hillary Zobeck, Soldotna
Northern Division MVP -- Emily Sakis, Palmer
Coach of the Year -- Nancy Kenney, Kodiak
First team -- Holly McCune, Homer; Ally deMello, Kenai; Robin Mullican, Kodiak; Jesse Macknicki, Palmer; Angelica Carreon, Kenai; Jenny Carpenter, Skyview; Christina Colvin, Skyview; Lindsey Shogren, Wasilla; Chelsea Ward, Homer; Zeenie Preston, Colony; Emily Sakis, Palmer; Hillary Zobeck, Soldotna.
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