Kenai's Lindsay Keener, left, hits the ball past Palmer's Ashley Dickerson during a Class 4A state volleyball championships match in Anchorage, Alaska, Friday, Nov. 11, 2005.
AP Photo/Al Grillo
It was tough for the Kenai Central High School volleyball team to be in the stands watching the action instead of playing Saturday at the state volleyball championships at West High School in Anchorage.
“It was a good season but a bad ending, especially that we lost to a team we had already beaten twice,” said Kenai’s Jamie Peterson of being knocked out of the tournament with a second-round loss to Northern Lights Conference foe Palmer on Friday.
Kenai beat Palmer in five games to close out the regular season, then repeated the feat to clinch a return trip to the state tournament in the semifinals of the conference tournament last week.
Friday, it was Palmer’s turn as the Moose edged the Kardinals in another five-game match.
The Kardinals won the first game 25-23, but Palmer took two straight, 25-15 and 25-19. Kenai forced a fifth game with a 25-14 win in game four, but, with the score tied at 12 in game five, Palmer struck for three straight points to win 15-12 and take the match.
“We could’ve done a lot better, but we couldn’t quite get over the jitters,” said Kenai coach Jason Diorec. “But I’m definitely thankful of coming to the big show, making it to state, again. The girls were just a little more nervous than last year.”
The nerves came from the fact that the Kardinals had very high expectations of themselves. While they didn’t meet those expectations, just setting such high goals shows how far the Kardinals have come over the past three seasons.
“It’s amazing how far we’ve come from being sophomores to seniors,” said Kenai’s Amber McGlasson.
“We’ve put Kenai Central on the map, especially up here in Anchorage. A lot of teams know we have a team to watch out for,” said Peterson.
Diorec noted that his players have gained some recognition beyond high school volleyball circles, and some of his seniors are getting looks from college coaches.
“They have set the standard,” Diorec said. “Now it’s up to us to keep that standard in place. They’ve paved the road and opened doors. This program has a bright future.”
Diorec said the team’s unity, which has been a strength all season, was especially helpful as the Kardinals coped with a disappointing loss Friday.
“We just stayed together. The season’s over, but we have the rest of the weekend to be a team still,” Peterson said.
“They definitely supported each other,” Diorec said. “They had some reflection time where they were able to go back to where they started and regain that pride. That’s why we’re staying until the end (Saturday’s awards ceremony) they deserve to be recognized as one of the top eight teams in the state two years running.”
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