In recent years, Curtis High School has found itself chasing other South Sound powerhouses for volleyball supremacy.
Now, it’s the one being chased.
And while a 3-1 (25-18, 27-29, 25-19, 25-8) win at Emerald Ridge in Class 4A South Puget Sound League play on Thursday just widens the gap between themselves and this season’s competition, the Vikings (9-1, 8-0) aren’t getting comfortable.
“It’s easy when you’re the person chasing because you have to make changes,” said Curtis coach Michael Miller. “It’s when you’re being chased that you have to make sure you’re making those adjustments so the next time you play, you’re not caught off guard.”
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Miller should have plenty of adjustments to make before the Vikings’ next match. Despite beating the Jaguars for the second time this season, he said his team never really got going, and had a marginal defensive effort.
Emerald Ridge (6-3, 5-2) used big swings to control the first half of the opening set, and prevented Curtis from taking its first lead until 17-16. From there, the Vikings only allowed two more points as they closed out the set on an offensive blitz.
Curtis, which traditionally is strongest in the second set, ran into unexpected struggles there.
“Good teams make you do things you don’t want to do,” Miller said. “I thought they blocked us really well and got us out of rhythm offensively.”
The Vikings led the opening nine points, but did not regain the lead until 20-19 on a hard-fought rally. Emerald Ridge capitalized several times on Curtis being unable to get the ball over the net. The teams battled to four late ties before Emerald Ridge prevailed, 29-27.
“We came out strong in the first set, which is definitely what we have been working on, but we needed to fight a little bit harder and pull our act together in the second,” said Curtis senior outside hitter Elly McEacheren, who had 16 kills and 13 digs.
Emerald Ridge opened the scoring in the third set, but Curtis took control at 4-3 and never let up, twice building an 11-point lead. The Jaguars battled back late, scoring seven unanswered points before the Vikings pulled away for good.
Curtis came out swinging to finish off the night, opening the fourth set with six consecutive points, and built a 17-point lead.
Emerald Ridge coach Bobby McGivern said his team lacked confidence and energy late in the match.
“We didn’t come to play right from the get-go,” he said. “We were lucky in that second set that we could battle with them because the game could have gone either way.”
Curtis senior offensive hitter Camryn Buell had 22 digs and 16 kills. For Emerald Ridge, senior offensive hitter Makenna Smith had 13 kills and 15 digs and sophomore setter Jadyn Mullen tallied 34 assists and 11 digs.