The Emerald Ridge High volleyball team is in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable place in the Class 4A South Puget Sound League South Division entering play this week.
It’s a situation coach Bobby McGivern hasn’t faced for some time.
“This is probably been the worst (performance) I’ve been a part of since 2010,” McGivern said frankly after her team’s loss to Curtis on Thursday inside Emerald Ridge’s gym. “Our team is young and you kind of expect that to happen every now and then. Tonight was the first night (in a long time) we didn’t have anybody on the same page — it was a whoopin’, plain and simple.”
It’s been five years since McGivern and co-coach Jill Fox-Mullen had seen an Emerald Ridge team coached by the two lose quite the way the Jaguars did in their 3-1 loss (25-18, 27-29, 25-19 and 25-8).
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“We got lucky in that second set, you know, because that game could have gone either way,” McGivern said. “We were fortunate to win that one. (In the) third set they had momentum going their way the whole way. The fourth we just lacked any kind confidence or any kind of energy.”
With Thursday’s loss to first-place Curtis (9-1, 8-0 league), Emerald Ridge (6-3) enters the week tied with Graham-Kapowsin (7-2) as both the Jaguars and Eagles are 5-2 in league. Both teams met for the first time Oct. 5.
“I think the word is going out what happened tonight that they can beat ER,” McGivern admitted. “I would be thinking that.”
Curtis’ win over ER gives the Vikings a three-game cushion on the Jaguars and threatens the reigning South Division champions’ title defense. Curtis swept the season series after defeating the Jags, 3-2, in the teams’ previous meeting on Sept. 15.
There are always things coaches and players can take away from a loss. But the one the Jaguars faced against Curtis is not one with a lot of positives.
“Good teams make you do things you don’t want to do, and I though they blocked us really well and got us out of rhythm offensively,” Curtis coach Michael Miller said.
Curtis’ offense struggled for much of the match, leaving the door open for Emerald Ridge to go on runs in each set. Yet it was the errors that cost the Jaguars.
“We just need to, in the times that get tough, we need to come together as a team and push through those,” Allie Bauer said. “Tonight we didn’t really show that. I do believe this will feed our energy for the next game, and I do believe we will come out with fire.”
Anytime Emerald Ridge pressured Curtis, or whenever there was a great shot, the Vikings of University Place found a way to keep the ball in the air. It forced Emerald Ridge to react and often resulted in attack errors (illegal contact, hitting out of bounds) or blocking errors (stepping over the line) that ended any potential ER rally.
“Their middles were tough, but for every good thing they did, they did a bad thing,” Miller said. “A lot of times they let us off the hook.”
Even with Curtis out of sync and not playing its game, the errors Emerald Ridge committed in the final two sets were just too much to overcome.
But there are positives in Emerald Ridge’s loss, as captain and Central Washington commit Makenna Smith carried the inconsistent Jaguar attack.
The senior led the Jags with 13 kills and 15 digs, and really stepped in when there wasn’t a consistent option outside Emerald Ridge’s top hitter.
“Makenna is a great leader and I personally love her encouragement,” Bauer said of her fellow captain. “She motivates me to do my best, and she’s a great leader, too.”
“It’s a big change for them, and for us early on it really is about finding our identity,” McGivern said. “I don’t think we found that yet. We have Makenna and a lot of pressure is (being) put on her. But she likes that and thrives on that — it’s getting the other girls on the same page.”
Emerald Ridge will need a lot of luck to retain the league title, but with the weeks coming and going and the season winding down, time is running short for the Jaguars.
“Right now, looking at the schedule, it looks good for Curtis,” McGivern said of the South’s remaining schedule. “We have some big games coming up, starting with GK (Graham-Kapowsin).”
Visit www.puyallupherald.com for results from Emerald Ridge and Graham-Kapowsin’s match on Monday.