Scheduling teams from higher classifications has long been a part of Tumwater High School volleyball coach Tana Otton’s philosophy.
This year, with seven seniors on the roster, the T-Birds were in great position to make some noise to start the season, and on Thursday night they completed a sweep of four consecutive traditional 4A powers with a straight-set victory over local rival Olympia, 25-14, 25-16, 25-18.
Earlier, Tumwater (4-0) had downed both of last season’s 4A state finalists, Curtis and Emerald Ridge, as well as state participant Bellarmine Prep.
“It’s something we’ve done for quite a while,” Otton said. “The kids love playing in that environment, and it makes us better.”
Olympia fell to 2-1 and, afterward, both coaches put the match into context.
“We didn’t do a lot of things great, but we were steady when it mattered,” Otton said. “We’re inconsistent right now, but I’m super impressed with the girls’ ability to do what they needed to do to win.”
That included a 21-kill performance by junior hitter Kennedy Croft, who had 10 digs and three aces. Cristina Hegarty led the T-Birds with 13 digs.
Bears coach Laurie Creighton has said from the outset of the season that her squad needs every bit of the lengthy run-up it will have before 4A SPSL play begins in two weeks.
“We’ve made improvements in serve and serve receive, in our ability to read on defense and manage our swings — but we’re not where we need to be,” she said.
Senior Lauren Wilson led the Bears with 10 kills, 19 digs and two aces.
“Lauren had to carry quite a load,” Creighton said. “She hung in there and tried to make things happen.”
Olympia made things happen at the start of each set, but couldn’t finish any off.
The Bears scored the first three points of the match, but the T-Birds quickly tied it at 4-4, starting a stretch where the score would be knotted seven times. With senior setter Maddie Pilon serving, Tumwater went on a 7-0 run, fueled by three of Croft’s kills.
Wilson broke the spell with her fifth kill of the set, but Tumwater started another run, 7-1 this time, to close out the set. Brooke Hare, who would finish with five kills, had a pair during that stretch.
The Bears grabbed an early lead in the second set, 3-2, but Tumwater quickly went up 5-4 and pulled away. After Olympia pulled to within 14-11, the T-Birds scored seven straight points to go up by 10.
Despite countering with a 5-1 run of its own, Olympia couldn’t make it all the way back.
In the third set, Olympia rallied from a three-point deficit to take an 8-5 lead after scoring six straight, a run during which Wilson had both of her aces and a kill. The lead would change hands five more times until Tumwater went ahead to stay at 16-15.
“We’ve been starting slow,” Otton said. “It’s something we’ve got to get figured out. Tuesday night (against Bellarmine) it was probably nerves since it was our first home game. Tonight we looked complacent. We’ve got a week off and that’s one of the problems we’ll need to dial in on and correct.
Tumwater senior Bella Najarro, who missed much of last season after an appendectomy, had six kills without committing an error.
“Bella had a great game,” Otton said. “It was good to see her get involved in the offense.”