Despite a valiant effort, the Nikiski volleyball team's season has come to an end.
After being swept by two-time defending Class 3A state champion Cordova in the opening round Thursday, the Bulldogs captured one game in their consolation match on Friday, but still lost 19-25, 25-18, 14-25, 22-25, to Petersburg, which advanced to the fourth-place contest in the state tournament at West Anchorage High School.
"The girls, they played a lot better (Friday) than (Thursday), just weren't able to pull it off," said first-year coach Sharon Thompson. "I was very proud of them. Nothing that they should hang their head about this season. It was a great season."
Nikiski actually led in both the third in fourth games before dropping them.
"We were pretty evenly matched," Thompson said.
The loss ends the careers of two seniors, Tasha Thompson and Rachel Bogard, as well as junior Danielle Bower, who is set to graduate early.
"It would have been nice to finish stronger," Sharon Thompson said. "We just couldn't get it done (Friday). But I was pleased with their play."
The seniors certainly went out with a bang, though, as Thompson recorded 17 digs and eight blocks and Bogard led the team with 19 digs.
"Tasha Thompson, she had a really good game," she said. "She really was playing good defense."
Junior Shalene Peek had 10 kills to go along with 10 blocks and Bower added 14 digs.
"Danielle Bower had an excellent tournament. She played well against both Cordova and Petersburg. She was just digging up everything in the backcourt," Sharon Thompson said. "She played outstanding defense. She definitely had a good weekend."
After finishing fourth in the state last season with an 18-2 record, the Bulldogs, who lost six seniors from that dominant squad, completed this season with a 7-12 mark and tied for seventh place in the state with Delta Junction.
"I'm excited we got there. The girls, they were pretty disappointed with the finish, but they were excited that they got to state and participated in state," she said. "They wanted people to know that they could do even better than what they showed."
And while another group of seniors, and in this case, one junior, will depart following graduation, Sharon Thompson is excited for what's to come.
"The seniors will be missed, but I'm excited for the young talent we have coming up," she said. "We've got a great future of young talent for Nikiski volleyball. It's going to be exciting."
When asked if she thought the Bulldogs would return to state next season for the sixth consecutive year, Sharon Thompson didn't hesitate.
"You bet," she said. "Always."
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