If anyone on the 3A volleyball landscape understood momentum this season, it was Gig Harbor, which put excellence in a headlock during a 19-game winning streak that stretched into the state tournament.
So it was that the Tides emerged all business from the hairpinning, switchbacking, pretzelling illogic of a mid-match lull to lock up fifth place — its highest state finish since 1997 — by beating Bellevue 25-19, 25-27, 25-20, 25-12.
“Our goal when we came to state wasn’t so much to take first as to play our best,” said Selena Dutton, one of just two Gig Harbor seniors. “In our loss (against Mercer Island in the quarterfinals on Friday), we played pretty good. In our last match, we definitely played some of our best volleyball.”
To rediscover its best, Gig Harbor had to scuffle against Bellevue: a 20-16 lead in the second set evaporated as the Bulldogs closed on an 11-5 run, and the Tides also surrendered seven unanswered points in the third set.
“In the second set, we kind of fell apart with our serve-receive,” Gig Harbor coach Melissa Klein said. “We were able to get back in system.
“It was great to see that after a tough loss, a heartbreaking loss (on Friday), we came back,” she added. “We only have two seniors; I’m excited about next season.”
Dutton had 18 kills, an ace and a block. Fellow senior Rachel Howard added four kills and an ace. Junior Lauren Hatfield (11 kills and two aces) was especially potent down the stretch, and junior Hadassah Ward was a consistent net threat with eight kills.
“I definitely feel like next year they’ll be able to come to state and do even better,” said Dutton. “Maybe go undefeated?”
Gig Harbor swept Squalicum 25-14, 25-20, 25-20 in an elimination match earlier on Saturday. Paige Lawson dished 26 assists for the Tides, targeting Dutton (12 kills, 10 digs), Hatfield (seven kills, 12 digs) and Howard (six kills, four aces, six digs) effectively.
Capital’s quest for a third championship appearance in three years took a jarring detour in the semifinals against Lakeside of Seattle. The Lions got 15 kills from Kallin Spiller in a 25-11, 25-11, 25-10 victory.
Capital struggled to develop an attack beyond 6-foot-1 senior Hali Ehresmann, who had seven of the Cougars’ 13 kills in the match. Maia Nichols added two kills.
In its ensuing match against Mercer Island for third place, Capital fell 25-13, 25-16, 25-20. Nichols warmed up at the net and posted a team-high 12 kills with 16 digs, Ehresmann had seven kills, three blocks and five digs, Tia Grow had 23 assists and Elise Meath cobbled 11 digs.
Timberline was looking to improve on the program’s highest state finish (seventh in 2014) but could not a complete a comeback against Bellevue which would have earned it fifth or sixth. The Blazers forced a fifth set by winning 25-22 in the fourth but ran out of steam and fell 15-7 in the decisive fifth. New Mexico State-bound senior Julianna Salanoa went out in style with 21 kills, 16 digs and two aces. Her heir apparent at the net, junior Kasey Louis, boomed 18 kills, and senior Natalie Stark had 24 assists.
North Thurston fell one victory short of reaching the match for seventh and eighth place, losing to Ferndale 25-19, 25-17, 25-10 in the consolation bracket. The Rams placed seventh in 2015.