The road to the state volleyball tournament is long, but don’t tell Jenna Mullen that.
The Emerald Ridge High School senior said the top-ranked Jaguars’ volleyball team prepares for every game like its the Class 4A state title match.
“We know there’s going to be challenges, so we just take each game like it’s going to be a championship match,” she said.
On Saturday, that is exactly what Emerald Ridge did as it swept Capital 25-11, 25-20 in the finals to win the Capitol City Invitational at Capital High School.
“We realize what we have on the line and that it is possible, so we’re thinking it’s actually going to happen (and) it stays with us,” said Mullen, who was named tournament MVP after tallying a game-high 10 kills in the championship match.
After coming out flat in the second game of the semifinals against Sehome, Emerald Ridge turned it up for the sweep (25-20, 25-14) — but their fatigue began to show in the finals and they left the door open for Capital, which scored four unanswered points late in the match.
It was not until senior setter Isabella Zubrod simply tapped the ball over the net for the winning point that the Jaguars breathed a sigh of relief.
Still, Emerald Ridge co-coach Bobby McGivern said that he felt his team played “level” against the Class 3A Cougars.
“Because of all of the conditioning we do, they had enough gas in the tank today, and that helps,” McGivern said. “We don’t yo-yo up and down with our emotions, so hopefully we will continue to do that.”
Capital coach Natalie Rhodes said that despite facing Emerald Ridge in the Kent Classic — the Jaguars won the Sept. 19 title match, 2-0 — they were unable to score on them.
“We couldn’t get anything down on them, they were so scrappy,” she said. “But I was proud of my girls for coming back in the second game.”
Capital senior outside hitter Rachel Erickson, who had a team high 10-kills, said that it wasn’t easy to play Emerald Ridge immediately after beating Gig Harbor in the semifinals. The Cougars rallied after a stagnant second game to win that one 25-22, 18-25, 15-13.
“I still think we fought hard, and after these long days, it’s hard to come and bring your best, but I think we did at the end,” she said.
Rhodes said that being able to hang in with strong competition gives her players’ confidence.
“Going into the postseason (after) facing a couple of 4A teams that are really good, I’m excited about that,” she said.
Timberline placed third in the tournament with a 25-16, 13-25, 16-14 win over Burlington-Edison.