The Emerald Ridge High volleyball program looks to have rediscovered itself after beating both Class 4A South Puget Sound League South Division foes Graham-Kapowsin and Rogers last week.
After a weekend trip to Phoenix for the Nike Tournament of Champions Volleyball Tournament (Oct. 2-3) and a meeting with USA Olympian Misty May-Treanor, Emerald Ridge suffered perhaps the program’s worst loss in five years when Curtis defeated the Jaguars Oct. 8 on their own court in four games. It was a bitter loss with no answers to be found for the team’s play.
But there were solutions, and the Jaguars used the tool best suited to help them move beyond that loss: text messaging.
“We were all effected by (the loss) because it was not what we wanted to happen,” Sara Brauner said. “We all got in our group text after the game, and we just said, ‘Hey, let’s take this and put it in a positive sense.’”
“Right after the loss, they were texting each other trying to figure out what went wrong,” co-coach Bobby McGivern said. “The loss to Curtis didn’t sit easy with them, and they did something about it.”
Days later, Emerald Ridge had the tough challenge of facing Graham-Kapowsin on Oct. 12, where the issues from the Curtis match presented themselves all over again. Communication issues and a tough GK defense put the Jaguars in a hole as the Eagles jumped out to a 2-0 lead. A match win would mean the chance to leapfrog Emerald Ridge in the standings.
The pressure was on.
Then Kava Durr (13 kills, seven blocks) and Makenna Smith (24 kills, four aces) took over, helping Emerald Ridge climb back into the game and defeat Graham-Kapowsin in five games (25-27, 22-25, 25-18, 25-19 and 15-8).
“I saw that when we lost those two games, (and) I saw a fire came back in us with those last three games because we knew that we wanted to win,” captain Allie Bauer said. “We needed to fight, and that’s what we did.”
Emerald Ridge followed the win over GK with a 3-1 (25-17, 24-26, 25-15 and 25-18) win over city rival Rogers the next day to close out the week in second place.
“We were all super focused and excited, and everyone was getting really pumped,” Taylor Templeman said of Emerald Ridge’s energy heading into the Graham-Kapowsin game. “It was a good vibe coming from everyone — not just the teams captains. It was a good vibe coming from everyone throughout the whole and the whole match.”
Entering the week, Emerald Ridge (8-3, 7-2) now sits one game ahead of third-place Graham-Kapowsin (8-3, 6-3) with three games left on the schedule.
Vikings doing alright
If the postseason started today, Puyallup (6-6, 5-5) would have the fourth seed out of the South, a spot coach Tony Batinovich feels comfortable with right now.
“We are okay as I think we’re going to make the playoffs … even if we finish at 5-7, we’ll be able to make the playoffs,” Batinovich said.
A youth movement last year caused the Vikings to miss the playoffs for the second time in 24 years since Batinovich took over the program. Even with a younger group in tow, the experience from a year ago now has the Vikings geared up for playoff volleyball.
“Even though they have some skill, they (were) still freshman and sophomores,” Batinovich said of last year’s team. “This year, even though we’re playing a bunch sophomores, they’re a lot more mature and are believing in themselves.”
And that belief can turn into reality with one more Puyallup win on the season. Puyallup next faces league leader Curtis (10-1, 9-0) on Thursday before closing out against Rogers next Monday at home.
“Last year they were always in matches, they just didn’t know how to win matches,” Batinovich said. “This year they are in them, and they figured out how the win them at the same time.”
Rams stop skid
Late in the season is probably the worst time Rogers (4-7, 4-5) could go on a losing streak, and that’s exactly what the Rams did when they lost four straight to drop to fifth in the South Division standings.
And to make matter worse, the Rams lost outside hitter Tayson Miller, who was out with a concussion, for the majority of those games. It’s been tough times for Rogers volleyball.
“We had a tough (late) schedule, and I don’t schedule weak opponents (on purpose),” coach John Reopelle said. “We’ll try to win the ones we’re supposed to win and see where that lands us.”
Rogers snapped its streak with a sweep of Spanaway Lake last Thursday, putting the Rams in position to move up in the league standings.
With games left to play against Bethel and Graham-Kapowsin before closing out at Puyallup, the Rams can help themselves to a top-3 league finish.
“Like I said earlier in the year, we’re still trying to get that top three spot,” Reopelle affirmed. “If we win three more (games), we’re at 7-5 and right where we needed to be.”