Intensity is no stranger when fifth-ranked Curtis and sixth-ranked Bellarmine Prep match up on the volleyball court.
The two schools have combined to win the past four Class 4A state titles — with Curtis winning last year and Bellarmine the three years in a row before that.
Tension was high as the teams faced off for the first time since Curtis defeated the Lions in the championship of the West Central District 3 tournament last year and for the first time as 4A SPSL schools after Bellarmine converted to the league from the now-extinct 4A Narrows.
The Lions won on their home court, defeating the Vikings in four sets, 25-20, 25-20, 24-26, 25-17.
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Bellarmine Prep began play winning back-to-back sets by taking advantage of the holes in the Viking defense. Senior setter and Washington State commit Hannah Pukis coordinated plays for senior outside hitters McKenzie Schwan and Claire McCarthy and executed them, seemingly at will throughout the match.
“We know the (Curtis) players from club,” McCarthy said. “We always go out swinging harder against Curtis.”
Bellarmine only gave up the lead once during the first two sets, and that was the first point of the first game.
“I think it (the win) brings a lot of confidence back to our team,” Schwan said. “Especially being in this new league and because they are supposed to be one of the tops teams in the SPSL. It just helps us a lot moving forward.”
Schwan was on the receiving end of most of Pukis’ assists as she finished with a team-high 19 kills, nine digs, and a block. Pukis had 29 assists, nine kills, three blocks and an ace.
Having past playing experience with her outside hitter, Schwan in club ball has created an instant connection according to Pukis.
“She is really easy to read, I have played with her for so long that it just makes it easy,” Schwan said. “It’s a lot of energy that we have to put forward. As we bring our energy up, we bring up our communication.”
And that connection beamed on Tuesday night. Each time the Lions needed a point or some kind of spark Pukis found Schwan on the outside where she was able to drill the ball past the Viking defense.
Curtis wasn’t able to find their game until late in the second set where they rallied, but were unable to even the score. The Vikings won the third set to make it a 2-1 game, but they could not hold off Bellarmine in the fourth.
Casey Woodruff had 26 digs for Curtis and Katie Yorke had 10 kills.
“This is so big, Curtis is a good team,” Bellarmine coach Caroline Meines said. “Curtis gives you trouble in lots of areas and they push you until the very end, I’m just very proud of how we played.”