Kodiak evens record with sweep of Kenai

Kodiak’s Puni Tusitino, 22, dives for the volleyball, while teammate Tasha Pedersen, 29, looks on during a high school match Saturday against Kenai at the Kodiak High School gym. (Derek Clarkston photo)

Samantha Oliver’s night didn’t start very well, but it ended with a bang.

The Kodiak senior needed two tries to complete the national anthem before the Bears’ match against Kenai Friday evening. She shrugged off that moment and provided the match-ending kill to complete Kodiak’s 25-15, 25-18, 25-13 sweep of Kenai in a Northern Lights Conference volleyball match at the Kodiak High School gym.

She bookended the match in two distinctively different ways.

Oliver made it through a third of the “Star Spangled Banner” before asking the crowd for a redo.

The fans cheered Oliver on for several seconds before she composed herself for the second run-through.

“I was very nervous,” she said. “I was just done warming up and my heart was beating fast. I just lost track of the words. I’m really glad the crowd was like, ‘OK, she can start over.’”

This was Oliver’s second time this season singing the national anthem before Kodiak’s match and the first time she has ever had to ask for a mulligan.

“She made a great comeback. Again that shows the heart,” Kodiak coach Rick Carman said.

“It’s got to be nervous for the kids to do that, especially in front of the home crowd. It was good. I can’t do it, so I am not going to comment on anybody else that does it.”

That was the only blemish on the night for Kodiak as it evened its NLC record to 3-3. The Bears finish South Division play at 3-1, their only loss coming at Skyview.

“I’ll take it,” Carman said of the record, “because I see us progressively getting better in certain areas and that is what I want.”

Kodiak has four conference matches remaining — two each against Wasilla and Colony.

The Bears peppered the Kardinals with an offensive attack that produced 34 kills in three sets. Puni Tusitino paced Kodiak with eight kills — five coming in the final set. Manya Wandersee added six kills, while Jenifer Miranda chipped in six kills.

“Their defense got a hold of some balls that were just phenomenal gets and that is what we heard about them,” Carman said. “They are in the same kind of boat we are in — they are either really on or really off.”

Kenai scored the matches’ first four points. Kodiak took its first lead at 10-9 on a Carole Lampl kill. The Bears then outscored the Kardinals 15-6 to take set one.

Kenai led the second set 13-12. Behind the serving of Oliver, Kodiak scored the next six points to take an 18-13 lead. Kenai closed to 20-17, before Kodiak finished the set.

Kodiak never trailed in the third game as the Bears built an 11-3 lead to eventually win by 12 on Oliver’s kill.

“At the end we really came together as a team,” Oliver said. “We started to talk more. We played more like us, which is really important because we were trying to work on that.”

After the match, Kodiak met on the court instead of meeting behind closed doors like they normally do.

“We were all congratulating each other because it has been at Soldotna since we played at home and we won,” Oliver said. “It was really exciting for all the girls.”

Saturday

Kodiak earned a 25-13, 25-16, 25-17 sweep of Kenai in a nonconference match on Saturday.

The Bears (4-4 overall), were paced by Miranda’s seven kills. Wandersee added 20 digs, while Tusitino tallied seven service aces.

On Friday and Saturday, Kodiak travels to Wasilla for a pair of NLC matches.

Mirror writer Derek Clarkston can be reached via e-mail at sports@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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