North Thurston High were the underdogs who became wonderdogs.
Match after match at the 3A state volleyball led to win after win and a berth in the finals on Saturday night.
And despite a 3-0 (20-25, 22-25, 16-25) loss to Prairie at Saint Martin’s University’s Marcus Pavilion, North Thurston (17-5) put on a show at the two-day state tournament, defeating Shorewood, Columbia River and Southridge.
The undersized Rams don’t feature a player taller than 5-foot-10 on the roster; they won with speed and defense.
With senior outside hitter Brittany Rutherford playing at less than 100 percent all weekend with a sprained ankle, multiple players came up clutch, including fellow senior Jessica Malchow. In the three-set semifinal win over Southridge earlier in the day, she tallied her second straight match of 17 kills. She finished with seven in the title match.
Up against a Prairie team that features four players 5-foot-11 or taller, North Thurston kept toe-to-toe during the first two sets, getting five kills in each set from Rutherford. In fact, North Thurston had a 22-21 lead late in the second set, but the Falcons scored four straight points, including on three straight aces by Carissa Campbell that gave the Falcons a 2-0 set lead in the match. And in the third set, it continued as the Falcons, utilizing their size at the net, raced out to leads of 7-2, 11-5 and 21-10 before the Rams began a comeback. Madison Krueger’s kill started a mini 4-1 run before Prairie put the match away on a set point.
The second-place finish is the best in school history for North Thurston. In four previous state appearances, the Rams had one state trophy – eighth-place hardware from the 1993 state tournament. After each match, coach Micah McBride continued to be amazed at what his team accomplished.
“These kids believed that they can win,” McBride said, “They believe in each other. We started practice 78 days ago and talked about goals and for 78 days, we’ve been a family. ... Not many kids get the opportunity to do something special and be apart of it.”