Facing the defending Region III volleyball champions with an inexperienced varsity lineup did not bode well for Kodiak in its 2019 home opener.
The Wasilla Warriors — armed with two 6-footers — swept Kodiak in a pair of Northern Lights Conference matches, winning 25-12, 25-20, 25-15 on Friday and 25-17, 25-17, 25-17 on Saturday.
The Warriors used their size in the middle — 6-foot-2 junior Jada Schultz and 6-foot-3 Bella Hays — to move to 2-0 in the NLC, 3-0 overall.
“Lucky for us they are both very athletic and willing to learn,” Wasilla second-year coach Katie Oxspring said.
Using laser kills and soft floaters, Schultz and Hays routinely found the open spots in the Bears’ defense. All of Kodiak’s players are under 6 feet.
“That is obviously not something that we practice against every day,” veteran Kodiak coach Amy Willis said. “We have to quickly figure out how to adjust our defense, and it took us a little longer.”
Oxspring said she looks forward to playing on The Rock and is always impressed with how Willis runs her program. She was happy to escape with two wins.
“Kodiak is always super strong defensively, so we didn’t take anything for granted,” she said.
Willis said her players needed to do a better job of recognizing what Wasilla was doing on offense.
“We have to be aware, and we have been working on that,” she said. “We have adopted the motto ‘see something, say something.’”
Kodiak dropped to 0-4 in the NLC, 0-5 overall.
The Bears flashed moments of greatness but were unable to sustain momentum against Wasilla as unforced errors squashed any comeback attempts.
“They are good — things happen, and my heart just fills with pride,” Willis said. “We work really hard, and then we have a service error. It is a game-level maturity. Again, these are young varsity athletes.”
Kodiak has seven seniors, but only Katrina Pruitt entered the 2019 season with extended varsity minutes.
Senior Emma Ellsworth led Kodiak on both days, knocking down six of her team’s 11 kills on Saturday and racking up five kills on Friday.
Freshman Kristen Carstens added four kills on Friday, while Pruitt tossed in three.
Shalliah Capili had 12 digs on Friday, while Jasmine Leiva and Enrica Villanueva each had 10 digs on Saturday.
Kodiak is off this week and will travel to Anchorage for the West Spiketacular Sept. 20-21. The Bears final home matches of the season are Sept. 27-28 against Colony, last year’s NLC runner-up.
“I am very proud of these young varsity athletes. It is a lot of pressure, and I just want us to feel confident in our shoes and in our gym,” Willis said. “This is our space; we should be able to defend it. We just need to make smart choices and execute to our ability.”