Bellarmine Prep’s volleyball team prefers to not look too far down the road. Instead, the players focus on one game at a time.
So, over two days, the Lions methodically picked off every opponent they faced in the Class 4A West Central District volleyball tournament, culminating in a 3-0 sweep of Camas in the championship match Saturday evening at Kentwood High School.
“We were pushed hard today, and the girls are tired,” said Bellarmine coach Jody DeGroot. “We kept reminding them that everyone’s in the same position (and) to stay focused on one thing at a time.”
Led by junior outside hitter Courtney Schwan, the Lions benefited from strategic placement of their serves, leading by as much as 10 in the first game. The Papermakers pulled within three late in the final game, but the defending district champions rallied to finish 25-13, 25-17, 25-20.
“I’m just really proud of our team,” said Schwan, who tallied a game-high 20 kills. “We came out strong and we finished strong, which is always a concern. We played strong the first day, so it’s like, do we have enough energy to come back the second day, and we did.”
Senior setter Katy DeGroot contributed 32 assists, and junior libero Julia Wright added 16 digs.
It was Camas’ first appearance in the 4A tournament after winning the past three years at the 3A level. The Papermakers also secured the No. 1 seed to next weekend’s state tournament.
“Coming into 4A and being in the championship match was great,” said coach Julie Nidick. “The girls really rose to the occasion.”
“Bellarmine Prep is a great team, and we’d love to play them again at state,” Nidick added.
Jody DeGroot said that her players have learned that “none of these teams here go away quietly.”
The Lions won their first two games in the semifinal against Union before dropping two and rallying in game five.
“We know we’re going to get blocked; we’re going to get dug,” she said. “We just have to not let that affect us – ever – because it’s just a matter of which ball is going to go down, and you’ve got to keep trying.”
Emerald Ridge’s quintet of sophomore starters helped the team to a first seed after sweeping Union, 25-16, 25-19, 25-23, to finish third in the tournament. Outside hitter Jenna Mullen had a game-high 18 kills and eight digs, while setter Isabella Zubrod added 32 assists and 10 digs.
“To be able to finish and take that into next week is good for us,” said Jaguars co-coach Bobby McGivern. “We didn’t even know until midafternoon that third and fourth place would matter (for seeding). That was nice.”
Other teams headed to state are Union, Puyallup, Olympia, Gig Harbor and Auburn Riverside.
Olympia coach Laurie Creighton said she was pleased to be returning to state a year after winning the title. The Bears, who graduated five seniors off the 2011 team, beat Gig Harbor in four to nab the sixth seed.
“Our emphasis was to finish strong and get some momentum going into next week,” she said.