Nikiski, Kenai take a swing at state

Posted: Thursday, November 10, 2005

With runner-up finishes at their respective conference tournaments last weekend, the Kenai Central and Nikiski high school volleyball teams will head to West High School in Anchorage this weekend with even bigger goals in mind: state championships.

"They're very excited about it," Nikiski coach Bruce King said of his team's attitude this week. "We had a big pep assembly out at Nikiski. It's the first time we've had that in quite a while. It was great."

King also noted that the Bulldogs had gotten back to their winning ways after dropping the title match at the Southcentral Conference tournament, trouncing the Nikiski wrestling team in an exhibition match.

The Bulldogs will be seeking their fifth state 3A title. Nikiski last won a championship in 2000. The Bulldogs' first-round opponent, Valdez, has won the last four state 3A titles.

"They're the four-time defending state champs, so we know they're going to be tough," King said. "I think we have to do what got us to this point. That's play great defense and transition to offense off our defense. We also need to serve well to keep those big teams off their middle attacks as much as possible."

The Bulldogs faced the Buccaneers in pool play at the West Spiketacular earlier this season, splitting with them.

King said the Bulldogs are just starting to get back to the level they were at before an injury to outside hitter Georgie Heaverley, who is just getting back into shape herself.

"Of course, we have the added benefit of some stepped-up play from some juniors who played while she was gone," King said.

King said Hannah Thompson had an outstanding conference tournament for the Bulldogs, and added that the team would rely on her to continue to play at a high level this weekend.

"Everybody understands what their role is. They all know that if everybody performs their role, we're a tough volleyball team," King said.

The Kardinals are making a repeat trip to the state 4A tournament. The Kardinals finished sixth in last year's competition, and while they enjoyed the experience and learned they could play with any team in the state, they also vowed to finish even better at this year's competition.

Just as they did last year, the Kardinals will open the tournament against Juneau-Douglas. The Crimson Bears lost in the third-place match last season and finished just ahead of Kenai, in fifth place, in the tournament.

Kenai's strength this season has been its team unity. With six seniors on the roster, the Kardinals have an experienced team with plenty of self-confidence.

"Our hitting is really, really good," setter Kendra Steiner said during last week's Northern Lights Conference tournament. "Every hitter has been coming up with big plays every game, pulling off stuff that I think other teams are amazed at. I have a really versatile team. They get where they're supposed to be. I can count on them all the time."

Kenai will have to be tough on defense, and Steiner will need to be creative with her setting as the Kardinals are likely to encounter some taller players at the net against Juneau.

If they can maintain their focus, the Kardinals feel they have a good chance of making a run at the tournament.

"We're very confident this year and have a lot of faith in each other that we have what it takes," said Samantha Calderwood at the NLC tournament. "We just have to show up for every game."

Alaska School Activities Association/First National Bank Alaska State 3A and 4A Volleyball Championships

Thursday, Friday and Saturday at West High School, Anchorage

Class 3A Championships

Thursday's games

Game 1 — Mt. Edgecumbe vs. Monroe Catholic, 2 p.m.

Game 2 — Valdez vs. Nikiski, 3:45 p.m.

Game 3 — Cordova vs. Heritage Christian, 5:30 p.m.

Game 4 — Grace Christian vs. Petersburg, 7:15 p.m.

Friday's games

Game 5 — Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 9 a.m.

Game 6 — Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 10:45 a.m.

Game 7 — Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 2 p.m.

Game 8 — Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 5:30 p.m.

Saturday's games

Fourth place — Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 9 a.m.

Third place — Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser, 12:30 p.m.

Championship — Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 5:30 p.m.

Class 4A Championships

Thursday's games

Game 1 — West Valley vs. West, 3:45 p.m.

Game 2 — Colony vs. East, 5:30 p.m.

Game 3 — South Anchorage vs. Palmer, 7:15 p.m.

Game 4 — Juneau-Douglas vs. Kenai, 2 p.m.

Friday's games

Game 5 — Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 9 a.m.

Game 6 — Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 10:45 a.m.

Game 7 — Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 3:45 p.m.

Game 8 — Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 7:15 p.m.

Saturday's games

Fourth place — Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 10:45 a.m.

Third place — Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser, 2:15 p.m.

Championship — Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 8 p.m.



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