High School Sports

Tumwater beats Woodland in straight sets for 2A volleyball title

Kennedy Croft, left, and teammates start the celebration after taking the third set against Woodland to win the 2A state title on Saturday.
Kennedy Croft, left, and teammates start the celebration after taking the third set against Woodland to win the 2A state title on Saturday. dperine@thenewstribune.com

Her team was already up two sets to none, but Tumwater High School senior libero Cristina Hegarty felt a need to shake things up.

“We weren’t playing the way we know we can play,” she said.

With the Thunderbirds leading Woodland in the Class 2A State volleyball championship match at St. Martin’s University on Saturday, Hegarty heard the theme song from her favorite movie, “Footloose,” blast over the public address system at Marcus Pavilion.

She pantomimed a few licks of air guitar, then slid on her knees toward the T-Bird bench.

“Of course they had to play ‘Footloose,” said Tumwater coach Tana Otton. “If they play that how can you not dance?”

At the time she stood up and chided Hegarty, but 20 minutes later when the T-Birds had wrapped up a 25-22, 25-18, 25-18 sweep of the Beavers for their second 2A state title in three years, all was forgiven.

“It’s a feeling I never thought I would have,” said Hegarty, who was a member of the T-Birds’ 2014 title team but not a major factor. “It’s amazing.”

Otton, who claimed a state title in the same year her father, legendary football coach Sid, is also hunting for a title in his final season, interrupted a conversation with reporters to hug her father.

“It’s always such a T-Bird family,” she said. “My dad’s been with me every step of the way. In 1998, my very first year of coaching, I won a state title at Meridian (in Bellingham) and he asked me ‘What took you so long?’”

This year’s championship looked like it might be a tough one to claim, though top-ranked Tumwater (22-0) defeated Archbishop Murphy earlier Saturday in straight sets in what Otton said was the most satisfying win of the season, and didn’t lose a set in any of its four state matches.

The Beavers (16-6), with their big three hitters — Kayla Fredricks, Taylor Foster and Vanessa Franke — playing well, surged out to as much as a 19-12 lead in the first set. Woodland was on a mission, trying to win a championship in the final game of coach Jeff Nesbitt’s 31-year career.

Otton could see her team was a little too hyped and called a timeout.

“We knew the nerves were there. Not in a way of being nervous, but wanting to do too much. We talked to them about starting to climb back up,” she said.

Gonzaga commit Kennedy Croft served as the T-Birds scored eight consecutive points to take the lead and were never seriously threatened after that.

With seven seniors suiting up for the last time, it was an emotional night for Tumwater. Setter Maddy Pilon, who was called up from JV late in the 2014 season and did play a significant role in that year’s sweep of North Kitsap for the title, saw this year’s crown as even more satisfying.

“The difference is how we came together. It was a lot of fun, but we were also unified the entire season, we had no conflicts, not even small ones,” she said.

Croft led Tumwater with 19 kills and also had 12 digs and three aces. Hegarty led in digs with 19 and also had a pair of aces. Pilon contributed 41 assists and had eight digs. Sophomore Savannah Sleasman had 10 kills.

Two other South Sound teams received trophies.

Fife (18-6) was swept by North Kitsap and accepted the eight place trophy while White River (20-3), which had played an impressive match against a tough Ridgefield squad on Friday night to reach the semi-finals, struggled Saturday and took fourth after losing to both Woodland and Archbishop Murphy in straight sets.

CLASS 1A

Annie Wright: The Gators season ended after a loss to Cedar Park Christian in the second round of the consolation bracket at state. The match between the Gators and Cedar Park Christian went the distance, all five sets, but the Gators lost 15-8 in the final set.

“Overall, it was a good weekend,” Annie Wright coach Jeff Grosshans said. “It was great to get that first win. We were in position to play for a trophy.

“I think we played our best volleyball of the season this morning. They fought hard and never gave up.”

CLASS 2B

Life Christian: The Eagles soared to a seventh-place finish this afternoon in the 2B state championships.

The Eagles lost their first match of the tournament in three sets to Colfax on Friday, but they responded by beating Darrington.

That allowed them to come back on Saturday. Kittitas took the Eagles to five, with Life Christian winning the fifth set 15-13, sending them to the seventh-place game.

The Eagles took on Toutle Lake, winning in four sets.

“We had a hard match at the beginning of the tournament,” Life Christian coach Ioanne Spencer said. “It can be hard to respond to that. The girls got back on the court and played very well.”

Christian Bond contributed to this report

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