Jody DeGroot was looking for the perfect words to describe how she was feeling when she stopped and cocked her head toward the loudspeakers.
“I don’t know,” Bellarmine Prep’s volleyball coach said slyly. “This song is kind of telling the story right here.”
As Queen’s “We Are the Champions” blared through Marcus Pavilion at St. Martin’s University, the top-ranked Lions celebrated their third consecutive Class 4A state volleyball title with a 25-18, 25-17, 25-18 sweep of Emerald Ridge.
“It’s been exciting,” DeGroot said. “I think it helps having players before them having been part of this winning streak, so they got on the court today and it was familiar.”
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The No. 2-ranked Jaguars scored the first two points of Saturday’s title match before senior Claire Martin’s block got the Lions on the board – and they never looked back.
“It came down to heart, and at the end of the day, we had more heart,” said junior middle blocker Megan Jacobson, who tallied seven kills. “The team that deserved it got the trophy again today.”
Senior offensive hitter Reghan Pukis, who had a match-high 16 kills, said that being able to win a championship alongside her sister, freshman hitter Hannah Pukis, made victory even sweeter.
“It’s a dream come true,” she said, wiping away tears. “There’s nothing better than this. This is the best team I have ever played with.”
A week after beating the Jaguars 3-1 in the district championship match, DeGroot said her team made adjustments to shut them down offensively.
“They’re a great team,” she said. “They’ve been beating teams left and right, so we knew we had our challenge ahead of us.”
The Jaguars did not lead after going up 9-7 in the first set.
“They run that quick offense, and if you’re not on them, they’re scoring,” said Emerald Ridge co-coach Bobby McGivern. “And their blocking – unbelievable.
“Every ball they were picking up in the back row, one hand, popping up, and the next thing you know, it was back over the net.”
Senior setter Isabella Zubrod, who had 20 assists, said that despite the loss, she was proud that they made it the farthest in program history.
“We worked really hard,” she said. “It’s awesome to leave as a senior knowing that we made school history.”
Bellarmine becomes just the third Class 4A school with a string of consecutive championships. Mead won five from 2003-07 and Kentlake, three from 2000-02.
In its first state appearance since 1989, Battle Ground nearly knocked off Bellarmine in the semifinals and then rebounded for a 3-1 (25-11, 25-18, 18-25, 25-20) win over Curtis, the 2013 runner-up.
“They were saying that when we got here,” Tigers coach Cheyanne Knight said with a laugh. “Who is this Battle Ground team?”
Senior offensive hitter Hallie Wyles said that despite being ranked No. 5 in Class 4A, the Tigers of Clark County were considered underdogs all season.
“It’s absolutely incredible,” she said. “No one thought we would come this far.”
Despite the loss, Curtis senior setter Kaycee Shaffer said that she was proud of how far they made it.
“I think no one really imagined us being top four, but we proved them wrong,” she said. “We came together as a team and showed them what we could do.”
Camas finished fourth with a 3-1 (25-20, 23-25, 25-26, 25-14) win over fifth-place Tahoma. Gig Harbor took seventh with a 3-1 (25-20, 25-22, 20-25, 25-20) win over Central Valley.