Roll Tides, indeed.
Gig Harbor High School’s volleyball team has reeled off 18 consecutive victories, losing just four sets in the process, since dropping a five-set match to Curtis to open the season. That run, and a No. 1 ranking in the most recent coaches poll, makes the Tides one of the favorites going into the state Class 3A state tournament, which begins Friday in Kennewick.
“I think we’re really excited about coming in ranked No. 1, and I think we want to hold that seed and really show everybody what we’ve got, because we’ve really got something special going on on this team,” junior Lauren Hatfield said.
Hatfield combines with senior outside hitter Selena Dutton to form one of the most dangerous duos in the state. They’ve combined for 380 kills and 394 digs this season.
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“We kind of just know how each other play, because we play kind of similar,” Dutton said. “If she gets a dig and it kind of just comes my way I’ll get it back to her and set her up. We’ve just played with each other for a really long time, so that’s been a part of it, and that’s been a part of shaping how we play volleyball together.”
Playing with a player equally as talented as she is has helped bring the best out of Hatfield.
“I think we’re able to celebrate each other’s victories, but at the same time seeing each other succeed pushes us to want to do just as much,” Hatfield said. “I think that really helps us motivate each other and motivate ourselves. If I see her do something awesome I’m like, ‘Oh my God, that’s great.’ But at the same time, I want to get out there and do the same thing. So, it’s almost like there is a friendly competition going on between us that always pushes each other to get better.”
Second-year head coach Melissa Klein said the team’s depth is what makes this group special and sets it apart from a lot of the teams they’ve played this year. The middle blockers and right-side hitters have also provided plenty of kills for the offense this season, which helps to open things up for Dutton and Hatfield.
“It’s just nice to have a team of girls where all of them have something special about them,” Klein said. “All of them can give something to the team as a whole. We have a really deep bench too, so if someone is struggling we can always put someone else in, but everyone on the court provides something to make us better and help us win.”
A lot of the responsibility to get all those talented players the ball falls on junior setter Paige Lawson.
“She’s really good at moving the ball around,” Dutton said. “In the beginning of the season, she set outside a lot. By the middle (of the season), she started learning that if we set the middles and right sides that the outsides would be able to get more kills because they wouldn’t have a double block, so she learned that by moving the ball around we’d actually be able to get more kills, which has really helped a lot.”
Lawson said having so many capable hitters makes her job that much easier and takes some of the pressure off.
“I just set my hitters and they can put the ball down no matter what,” she said. “I think that’s really special because they’ll get the point, no matter if my pass is off, we’ll get the point.”
The Tides hope to continue to win this weekend, but enter the tournament in a unique situation. Despite their No. 1 ranking, only Dutton has previous state tournament experience.
Because of that lack of experience on the big stage, the Tides aren’t putting too much pressure on themselves. Instead, they’re focusing on why they play the sport in the first place — having fun.
“We just work together like no other team before that I’ve been a part of,” Hatfield said. “I think we’re all just really excited to just go out there and play our hardest.”