In practice on Monday afternoon prior to Wednesday’s volleyball match against first-place Capital, senior outside hitter Lauren Hatfield had a simple message for her Gig Harbor High School teammates.
“She told us, ‘We’re going to win this game,’” said senior teammate Hadassah Ward, with a smile.
Ward’s prediction was proven correct, as host Gig Harbor (7-1) avenged its only loss of the season, beating Capital (7-1) in four games.
Gig Harbor’s loss came in five games on the road against the Cougars in the first game of the season. This time, the Tides came out on top.
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“We weren’t going to accept a loss,” said Hatfield, who finished with 12 kills and 12 digs for the Tides.
“I think it establishes where we can be and where we want to go,” Hatfield said. “I felt that was a highlight of our season so far and I just can’t wait for us to keep going up from here.”
With plenty of preseason hype coming off a fifth-place finish in last year’s Class 3A state tournament and returning a solid core of players, Gig Harbor was a bit shell-shocked by its opening-match loss to Capital. In the first game of that match, Gig Harbor trailed 14-1 at one point.
“We had to learn how to play together a bit,” said Gig Harbor assistant coach Slade Klein. “We just weren’t ready.”
Things have changed since then. Gig Harbor has now rattled off seven wins in a row, including Wednesday night’s win over the Cougars. Senior outside hitter Hannah Yerex’s kill sealed the win for the Tides in a 27-25 fourth game.
Gig Harbor took the first and third games, but came out of the gate slowly in the fourth game, at one point trailing 17-11. Then the tide turned.
“It’s just about getting one point at a time,” said Yerex, who finished with 12 kills, 17 digs and three aces. “Being consistent, keeping the ball and making them make the mistakes is what we’re focusing on, and then just doing all we can to get balls to the floor and play defense.”
For Hatfield, it came back to her intensity in practice all week leading up to the game.
“We just had to play with the mindset that we had in that first and third set,” Hatfield said. “Coming out knowing that this our game — playing with that intensity and that fire, and just not letting anything drop. I know that we all really, really wanted this. I know that as seniors, this is our last chance to play capital, and it’s always a really big game. … I think a lot of it was just within ourselves, we were able to fight through and find that fire, which is really special.”
Yerex and Hatfield provided plenty of great kills throughout the game, which were accompanied by tone-setting, thumping hits from Ward. Ward finished with 10 kills, three aces and six blocks, earning praise from head coach Melissa Klein for not only her usual hard-hitting, but her crucial play at the net as well.
But about those hard hits — when Ward got a hold of one, the Capital defense stood no chance.
“Honestly, I don’t really go for spots,” Ward said. “I just know to swing away and it can either hit off their hands and go out of bounds, or, it’ll go straight through their hands.”
For Klein, she was proud to see her team fight hard through the match and come out with the win.
“The biggest thing for our team is that we have heart,” Klein said. “Our girls have heart. We were down by so much in that fourth set and just never gave up. We love that because that’s what we play for. We play for these type of matches.”