Friday’s match begins at 7 p.m., followed by a 2:30 p.m. start on Saturday. Both are NLC counting matches.
“It feels like my season has started, finally,” Kodiak coach Amy Willis said. “They (the girls) have been working into their fourth week. We are gelling a little bit more.”
With the start of the regular season Friday, the NLC will look a bit different as Skyview — a perennial conference power — and Homer dropped from the 4A classification to the 3A classification.
That leaves the NLC with just six teams — Kodiak, Colony, Wasilla, Palmer, Soldotna and Kenai.
Half of those teams will advance to the 4A state tournament in November.
North and South divisions are no longer needed, as teams will be clumped into one division and will play two conference matches against each other for a total of 10 NLC games.
In the past, Kodiak played two NLC matches against North Division teams Colony, Wasilla and Palmer and one NLC match against South Division teams Soldotna, Skyview, Homer and Kenai.
When the Bears hosted a South Division team, the first game was an NLC game, while the second match was nonconference. Not this year; both games count.
Willis said losing Skyview and Homer does not weaken the NLC and the Bears are already used to playing North Division teams twice a season.
“We just have to play more tough teams,” Willis said.
“The North, I thought, was the tougher of the two sides of our conference,” she added.
With fewer teams in the conference, it also means fewer home appearances for Kodiak. The Bears are at home three times during the regular season.
“But, it means more opportunities for tournaments,” Willis said. “Tournaments are really good for us, as far as playing people we would never see. It’s just opportunities for lots of touches, which is really what this squad needs.”
Kodiak’s varsity replaced matches with Homer and Skyview with a trip to the Lady Grace Invitational Oct. 5.
This is the Bears’ second look at Soldotna this season, after losing to the Stars at the Homer Jamboree.
Soldotna is coming off a third-place finish at last week’s Chugiak Invitational, while Kodiak has had two weeks to prepare for the Stars.
“We have scouted each other out and I think we have some things going for us that we didn’t have last weekend,” Willis said. “I had an athlete (Olivia Bennett) who didn’t travel with us, she had family obligations, so she will be back with us ... that will be good for us.”
Contact Mirror writer Derek Clarkston at email@example.com.