High School Sports

Kentwood outlasts Curtis in four sets to reach Class 4A state volleyball semifinals

Contributing writer

Defending champion Curtis carved an indelible fault line into the 4A state volleyball bracket by stunning top-ranked West Valley of Yakima in the opening round Friday at the Toyota Center.

Then Kentwood shimmied through the rubble into the semifinals. The fifth-ranked Conquerors, who finished second in the 4A NPSL Cascade and third at districts, are two victories away from the only first that matters after outlasting Curtis 25-22, 25-22, 23-25, 25-20 in a quarterfinal match. Kentwood takes on No. 3 Mead in a semifinal match at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

The Conquerors’ only state championship came in 1986.

Kentwood senior Zvezdi Krasteva attacked from a rarefied airspace belying her 5-foot-6 frame against the Vikings. Her emphatic kill on match point capped a performance that showcased the Conquerors’ versatility.

“We really work hard on supporting one another,” said Krasteva, who had nine kills. “If we make an error, we just forget about it. It’s always, ‘I got you’.”

Curtis overcame 1-0 and 2-1 game deficits to upset West Valley, and appeared poised for an even larger comeback against Kentwood after dropping the first two games but winning the third. Vikings Kayla Skipworth and Katie Yorke had two kills apiece in helping Curtis inch ahead 13-7 in the fourth game.

“The kids showed great resilience,” Vikings head coach Michael Miller said. “It looked like we might come back.”

But Curtis seemed to run out of gas, the toll of its 16-25, 25-14, 19-25, 26-24, 15-12 thriller against then-unbeaten West Valley showing.

Kentwood? Juice to spare. The Conks ripped off a 13-1 run.

“We just couldn’t put the ball down. Credit to their defense,” said Miller. “That’s just a really, really well-coached team.”

Kentwood sophomore Haylee Kent had 17 kills and four blocks, and junior Erin Gould 12 kills in the win. And while Zvezdi wasn’t sure she’d be able to sleep on Friday — “So much excitement,” she said — Kent added a touch of swagger.

“I loved how we pursued every challenge today,” Kent said. “We never let the score determine how we played. We took out Auburn Riverside (during the regular season), when they were ranked higher than us, and once we did that, we’ve felt unstoppable.”

Usual suspects advance

Kent and Co. might get another shot at the Ravens; Auburn Riverside did not lose a set in marching through two matches Friday, and is the highest-ranked team still standing. After sweeping Eastmont 25-18, 25-15, 25-9 in the first round, the Ravens outlasted rival Auburn-Mountainview 26-24, 25-18, 29-27 to set up a heavyweight semifinal at 1 p.m. against fourth-ranked Bellarmine Prep, which won it all in 2012, ’13 and ’14.

“It’s always scary (playing a familiar opponent at state),” Auburn Riverside head coach Chris Leverenz said. “Anything can happen against a rival. We fixed the lineup a little to match up with (Boise St. commit) Kiley (Lewis) a little better. We were very pumped up for them.”

A Bellarmine squad that fired on all cylinders in beating Graham-Kapowsin 29-27, 25-13, 22-25, 25-13 and Richland 25-11, 25-23, 25-17 awaits. The Lions against Richland received contributions from state newcomers and wily veterans alike: middle blockers Rylee Born (eight kills, eight blocks) and Allana McCollum are first-time starters but made a huge impact, Bellarmine head coach Caroline Maines said. Captains Claire McCarthy (four aces, three kills, eight assists, two blocks, 14 digs) and McKenzie Schwan (nine kills, seven digs, three blocks, two aces) showed the polish of four-year varsity stalwarts. Hannah Pukis did a little of everything with 22 assists, 11 kills and 11 digs. Addy Woolery chipped in 16 digs.

“They know they have a shot on Saturday,” Maines said, “but they’ll have to be gritty against Auburn Riverside. At state, you’ve gotta have a full squad.”

Meanwhile, Tahoma found the composure that head coach Kelly Kim said unlocked the Bears’ best volleyball, eliminating Puyallup 25-7, 25-16, 29-27 in a consolation match and keep its trophy hopes alive. Emily Smith had 11 kills, two blocks and four digs, and Ginny Mehl added six kills and five blocks for Tahoma, which takes on West Valley at 9 a.m. Saturday.

“We talked a lot about playing as a cohesive unit and really playing with heart,” Kim said. “That’s what we executed.”

Cydnee Miller had 27 assists and Andrea Barrie chipped in 15 digs and two aces for the seventh-ranked Bears. Tahoma lost 25-12, 22-25, 25-21, 25-23 to third-ranked Mead in a first-round contest, setting up the showdown with No. 6 Puyallup, which fell 25-22, 20-25, 25-19, 25-27, 15-13 to Bothell in Round 1.

Curtis plays Bothell and Auburn Mountainview takes on Richland in consolation bracket matchups at 9 a.m. on Saturday, each needing a victory to clinch a trophy.

Timberline bounced from title picture

New Mexico State commit Julianna Salanoa and Timberline won’t get a crack at a state championship, but don’t expect that disappointment to diminish the Blazers’ drive — or attention to detail.

Timberline will bring a comprehensive to-do list with it on Saturday, Salanoa’s final hurrah in a Blazers’ uniform.

“I think we can learn from this,” Salanoa said after Timberline fell to Lakeside 25-12, 25-19, 25-18 in a 3A state quarterfinal. “Our serve-receive, our defense, our passing, staying focused, (making) less unforced errors, having high energy… This game showed us what we need to work on.”

The Blazers attack just couldn’t quite get untracked. Salanoa had 11 kills, five blocks, nine digs and an ace. Kasey Louis added six kills, 10 digs and a block, Raja Togiola had three kills, five digs and two blocks, and Natalie Stark had a solid floor game with 24 assists, four digs, two blocks and a kill.

Timberline was making its first state appearance in three years and announced its return with gusto, sweeping Shorewood 25-21, 25-18, 25-12. That early success — and a desire to make her final day as a Blazer a fine one — had Salanoa smiling, despite the quarterfinal let-down.

“We’ll fight no matter what and finish strong,” she said. “Whatever place we take is strong, as long as we stay together.”

Timberline will play the loser of the Bellevue-Capital quarterfinal in a consolation match at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Capital opened the tournament by rolling over Holy Names 26-24, 25-21, 25-23.

Gig Harbor avoided replicating nightmares of first-round losses in 2012 and 2014 but saw its state title dream dashed by Mercer Island in the quarterfinals, suffering its first loss since a season-opening setback against defending 4A champion Curtis.

Mercer Island, seeking its first state title since 2013, swept 25-22, 25-18, 25-21.

The Tides play Squalicum in a consolation match at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Gig Harbor began the tourney by subduing Kamiakin 25-15, 25-17, 25-21.

North Thurston won a five-set consolation thriller over Roosevelt and will play Ferndale at 11 a.m. Saturday for a birth in the seventh/eighth-place match. The Rams beat Roosevelt 18-25, 25-19, 20-25, 25-19, 15-9 to stay alive after dropping their tourney opener against Mt. Spokane — which has not lost since early October -- 25-13, 25-22, 25-10.

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