Gateway: Sports

Think 5th at state was good? Gig Harbor volleyball might be even better this season

Lauren Hatfield, left, and Hadassah Ward are returning to this year’s Gig Harbor volleyball squad. The Tides took fifth in the Class 3A state tournament last season.
Lauren Hatfield, left, and Hadassah Ward are returning to this year’s Gig Harbor volleyball squad. The Tides took fifth in the Class 3A state tournament last season. jbessex@gateline.com

Gig Harbor lost its first match of the 2016 volleyball season to Curtis, 3-2.

The Tides must not have enjoyed the feeling of losing too much.

After the loss to the Vikings, Gig Harbor rattled off 19 wins in a row, claiming the league title, the West Central District 3 title, and storming into the Class 3A state tournament on fire.

Gig Harbor ended up taking fifth in state last season. Bad news for the rest of the state: The Tides might be just as good this year.

One major loss is Selena Dutton, who led the team with 284 kills a season ago. But senior outside hitter Lauren Hatfield, who recorded 283 kills last season, is back and eager to keep the momentum rolling after Gig Harbor’s fifth-place state finish in 2016.

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Lauren Hatfield warms up before practice at Gig Harbor High School last week. Joshua Bessex jbessex@gateline.com

“I think (the state placing) gives us a lot of confidence, but at the same time, it gives us an expectation for ourselves to accomplish more,” Hatfield said. “Each year, you want to get better. We’re full of seniors this year. We all really want it.”

Hatfield is a natural-born leader. Her coaches and teammates notice it in practice every day.

“She has a great work ethic and leads by example,” said third-year coach Melissa Klein. “She lives and loves volleyball. She just has that natural leadership ability. That’s an amazing thing to have as a coach.”

Riding out a 19-game winning streak was quite a feeling, according to players on the team.

“During it, I didn’t think about it a whole lot until we were getting to the end,” Hatfield said. “Then it was, ‘Wow, we really haven’t lost.’ I think once we got to that point, we really set the standards for ourselves. … I just tried to remind the team how close we were and what an accomplishment each game and each practice was. It was great at the time. I think it brought it brought a lot of morale to the team and a lot of pride to the program.”

The Tides also return senior Hadassah Ward, a state champion shot-putter in track and field. Ward sets the tone for Gig Harbor with her power.

“Hadassah hits the ball really, really hard,” Klein said. “Seriously, sometimes we find a flat ball in the cart and we’re like, ‘I wonder if Hadassah hit this.’ She hits the ball hard and it’s amazing.”

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Hadassah Ward warms up before practice at Gig Harbor High School last week. Joshua Bessex jbessex@gateline.com

Ward is bullish on Gig Harbor’s prospects this year.

“Having the same juniors come out this year, playing as seniors, we have a very strong chance of potentially winning state this year,” Ward said. “Our goal is to win state and keep first place in league and districts. We want to win as many games as we can.”

Gig Harbor has always had a strong volleyball program. But the Tides went from good to very good last year. Gig Harbor’s fifth-place state finish was the program’s highest since 1997.

“We got a lot better at defense and passing,” Klein said. “Gig Harbor has always been a good offensive program. Last year, we added some key players to our defense and they rocked it.”

Klein is as optimistic as her players about Gig Harbor’s chances this year, but is trying not to get too far ahead of herself.

“Our goal is always to do well in league, take a district title, make it to state and win state,” Klein said. “That’s our ultimate goal. Really, we just take it one day at a time. We have big goals but we like to keep it small in the moment.”

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