Auburn Riverside’s top-ranked volleyball team ran roughshod through the regular season, losing minimal sets along the way.
But how would the Ravens respond when some postseason pressure was thrown their way?
The answer came in the championship match at the 3A West Central District/Southwest bi-district tournament.
Auburn Riverside rallied after dropping the first two sets to defeat Columbia River (23-25, 24-26, 25-9, 26-24, 15-8) in the district championship match Saturday at Auburn Mountainview High School and in the process secure the district’s top seed to the state tournament.
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“We haven’t had many like this,” Auburn Riverside coach Elis Arias said. “We had to rally once in the regular season against Mountainview, but it wasn’t like this. Not at this level. I told the girls this is the level we are going to see at state next week. We needed this. This is the level we need to be playing at from here on out.”
Kasey Holand had 20 kills and Precious Atafua added 18 while Carson Heilborn directed the offense, dishing out 50 assists.
The Rams enter next week’s state tournament, which begins Friday at Saint Martin’s University, as the fourth seed, while Prairie claimed the fifth and final state slot.
Trailing 2-0, the Ravens blitzed the Chieftains from the start in the third set, racing out to leads of 4-0 and 9-2 before ending it, 25-9.
It was a different story in the fourth set as Columbia River held a 24-22 advantage.
The Ravens scored the next four points, getting a block from Calley Heilborn, an ace from Carson Heilborn and a kill from Atafua to win the set, 26-24.
Auburn Riverside used an 8-0 run in the fifth set to lead 12-2. Carson Heilborn closed out the set and the match with a kill, giving the Ravens the 15-8 win and the No. 1 seed into the state tournament.
“We just came in too confident,” Holand said. “We wanted to come out with a lot of energy and play Riverside volleyball once that third set started. This was a huge wake-up call for us. This felt like a state finals match.”
Narrows League 3A champion Capital, which drop a match-deciding fourth set, 31-29, to Columbia River in the semifinals, rebounded nicely to make short work of North Thurston and claim the district’s third seed.
The Cougars swept the Rams, 25-13, 25-15, 25-14, getting 12 kills and 8 digs from Rachel Erickson and 20 assists from Sam Yorke to beat North Thurston for a fourth time this season
“We just told the girls to regroup and not think about the semifinals, where we hurt ourselves with errors,” said Capital coach Natalie Rhodes, who guided the Cougars to a second-place finish at last year’s 2A state tournament. “We executed (against North Thurston). It’s what we didn’t do against Columbia River, but we’re pleased with how we competed here. I think the top three teams in this district all have a great shot at state.”
Capital trailed 3-1 in the first set before using a pair of 5-0 runs to post the convincing 25-13 win.
The next two sets were very similar with an Erickson kill ending the second set, 25-15, while a Steffany Sweet kill concluded the third set, 25-14.
The Rams, who finished second at state in their last appearance two years ago, received 8 kills from Alex Porter and 6 kills from Katie Sisson against Capital.
“This is a very tough tournament. Only four teams make it to state. We’re one of them. The other three are all ranked in the top five,” North Thurston coach Jacqueline Meyer said. “We’re leaving here as winners. We still have a lot to work to do for next week. We will fine-tune some areas, but I am very impressed with how we played.”