Derek Clarkston/Kodiak Daily Mirror

Kodiak’s Kathryn Carstens hits the ball during a volleyball match against Colony earlier this season at Kodiak High School. 

Before Kodiak settled into its 2017 volleyball season opener, Colony reeled off 14 straight points.

Several minutes into Friday’s match, and down 14-0 was not what veteran Bears coach Amy Willis drew up to start the season. 

“We are young,” the coach said. “We were kind of starstruck on Friday, which I was not expecting at all.”

To Kodiak’s credit, the players showed moxie and clawed back, outscoring Colony 14-11 before falling 25-14. 

The Bears grabbed the second set, but dropped the final two to fall 3-1 (25-14, 23-25, 25-23, 25-19).

The Knights finished the weekend sweep by taking Saturday’s match 3-1 (25-21, 25-21, 19-25, 25-17). 

Colony, which had already played a nonconference match and in a tournament, displayed its power in both Northern Lights Conference matches to improve to 2-0 in the NLC. 

Kodiak, coming off a 1-9 NLC campaign, returned only two players — Kyla Nocon and Ruth Dela Cruz — with significant varsity experience and dropped to 0-2 in the NLC.  

“We have all the pieces, it is just getting it going in the right direction,” Willis said. 

“We are still transitioning from that junior varsity mindset of what do I need to do, to how can I affect what is happening over there,” Willis added.  

Colony senior Eva Stephens, a 6-foot-1 middle, lasered 18 kills on Friday and 12 kills on Saturday against a shorter Kodiak squad, whose average height is 5-4. 

After dropping Friday’s first set, Kodiak fell behind 5-1 in the second set before taking its first lead of the season at 9-8. 

The two teams swapped points the rest of the way. 

Trailing 23-22, Kodiak strung together three straight points and won it on a Kathryn Carstens kill and an Edlen Mangosing ace. 

Tied at 17 in the third set, Colony went up 20-17 behind the serving of Avery Easley. 

Kodiak pulled to within 24-23 on a Colony error, but Stephens finished the set off with a blast that stung the floor untouched. 

Colony never trailed in the fourth set to end the match shortly before 11 p.m. — the game was pushed back 90 minutes because both the C squad and junior varsity matches went five sets.  

Junior middle Kathryn Carstens led Kodiak’s attack with six kills and three aces. 

Nocon and Dela Cruz each had 18 digs. 

“Cat Carstens had an amazing match and really just played phenomenally,” Willis said. “Ruth Dela Cruz was doing a great job of being a leader, and working hard generating points by making smart choices setting the ball and attacking the ball strongly. 

“I’m really proud of how that evening evolved.” 

On Saturday, Kodiak avoided being swept by winning an emotional third set 25-19. 

The Bears took the lead for good at 13-12 and pushed the margin to 23-16 on eight straight serves by Dela Cruz, who polished off the set with a well-placed kill from the back row. 

Colony scored the first five points of the fourth set and never trailed.  

“We know they are beatable,” Willis said. “We just need to be more consistent in what we are doing, and keep them flustered longer.”

Dela Cruz knocked down a team-high nine kills, while Nocon added eight. 

Katie Banks chipped in five service aces and five kills, while Kateleen Sofranes recorded 21 digs.

On Thursday, Kodiak travels to Fairbanks to play West Valley in a nonconference match. The Bears play in the West Valley Invitational on Friday and Saturday.    

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