TOP THREE STORYLINES
1. VOLLEYBALL HOTBED
Auburn Riverside continued the tradition of area schools winning the 4A state championship last year by defeating Mead in the championship match. So that's six consecutive champions to come from the South Sound. The Ravens join Bellarmine Prep, which has won three state titles in the last six years, Curtis and Olympia as area schools that have brought home the ultimate prize. With all the talent around, it seems likely the 4A champion could come from the area once again. Last year, five of the top eight 4A teams in the state were local.
2. TUMWATER’S DOMINANCE
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Tumwater was absolutely dominant in 2016, finishing the season 22-0 and winning the 2A state championship. In the process, the Thunderbirds lost just eight games all season and 17 of their matches ended in sweeps. They also opened the season with victories over Curtis, Emerald Ridge, Bellarmine Prep and Olympia. It will be hard to match that kind of success, but with senior outside hitter and Gonzaga commit Kennedy Croft back in the fold, the Thunderbirds are a favorite to repeat.
3. LOADED LEAGUE
The 4A SPSL is worth keeping an eye on. Puyallup, Bellarmine Prep, Emerald Ridge and Curtis all finished with 6-3 records in league or better last season. Puyallup and BP both finished 7-1, but the Vikings edged the Lions for the title on the strength of their head-to-head victory. Who will come out on top this year is a mystery, but it would seem they will be battle-tested for a postseason run.
4A NPSL Cascade – Tahoma
4A NPSL Olympic – Auburn Riverside
4A SPSL – Bellarmine Prep
3A PCL – Bonney Lake
3A SSC – Gig Harbor
2A SPSL Mountain – Fife
2A SPSL Sound – Steilacoom
2A Evergreen – Tumwater
1A Nisqually – Charles Wright
TEAM TO BEAT
Auburn Riverside – The Ravens are the reigning 4A state champion, and return The News Tribune’s All-Area Player of the Year in Calley Heilborn, making them the clear favorite to start this season. Heilborn, an outside hitter, also has a dominant setter to get her the ball in senior Ciera Zimmerman. Both players are committed to play in college, Heilborn at Western Washington and Zimmerman at Colorado.
FIVE TO WATCH
OH Kennedy Croft, Tumwater, sr.: Led Thunderbirds to a 22-0 season and a 2A state championship. Should provide one more memorable season before taking her talents to Gonzaga.
OH Calley Heilborn, Auburn Riverside, sr.: Returning TNT All-Area Player of the Year and part of the defending 4A state champion Ravens – pretty much says it all.
S Hannah Pukis, Bellarmine Prep, sr.: Was last year’s 4A SPSL MVP and a member of the All-Area first-team while leading the Lions to the 4A state championship where they lost to Auburn Riverside. Pukis is committed to play in college at Washington State.
OH Emily Smith, Tahoma, sr.: Led Bears to a seventh-place finish at the 4A state tournament. She was the 4A NPSL Cascade MVP and led her team to a division title while averaging 3.1 kills per set.
L Kasey Woodruff, Curtis, sr.: The do-it-all senior led the Vikings to the state tournament last season and named first-team All-Area. She is committed to continue her volleyball career at Western Washington University.
BEST OF THE REST
4A NPSL – S/OH Eugena Faamausili, Kent-Meridian, sr.; S Ciera Zimmerman, Auburn Riverside, sr.; S Riley Sansaver, Kentwood, sr.; OH Paige Anthony, Tahoma, jr.; L Julia Westhoff, Kennedy, sr.; S Malia Aleaga, Kennedy sr; MB Rebecca Thareek, Auburn, sr.; MB Anna Maracich, Auburn Riverside, sr.; OH Talaitupu Lologo, Federal Way sr.
4A SPSL – OH Kaitlin Sugai, Puyallup, sr.; OH Peyton Foster, Graham-Kapowsin, sr.; S Anna Saelens, Puyallup, sr; S Haley Morton, Curtis, sr; L Addy Woolery, Bellarmine Prep, sr; MB Rylee Born, Bellarmine Prep, sr.
3A PCL – MB Carly Gibbon, Bonney Lake, sr.; MB Zyonna Fellows, Mount Tahoma, sr.; S/RS Ciarra Judson, Wilson, jr.; M Ella Dorsey, Wilson, so.; S/RS Alandra Acido-Pastor, Spanaway Lake, so.
3A SSC – L Elise Meath, Capital, sr.; OH Lauren Hatfield, Gig Harbor, sr.; OH Maia Nichols, Capital, so.; MB Kasey Louis, Timberline, jr; L Lauren Porter, North Thurston, so.
2A EvCo – Rachel Wilkerson, Centrailia, sr.; Tamara Corona, Aberdeen, jr.; Makenzie Moore, WF West jr.; Emma Goodman, Black Hills, sr.; Maisy Williams, Black Hills, jr.
2A SPSL – MB Madison Licari, Fife, sr.; S Hope Baldyga, White River, sr.; S Annika Linden, Fife, sr.; OH Keegan Strobeck, White River sr.; L Megan Vandergrift, White River, sr.; OH/M Emily Chisa, River Ridge, so.; RS/S Sarah Fohn, Orting, sr.; MB Emily Clark, River Ridge, sr; L Rachel Brown, Steilacoom, sr.; OH Caty Neeser, Steilacoom, sr.
Others – OH Abbie Jackson, Charles Wright, jr.; MB Madison Boles, Life Christian, jr.; OH Susan Hurdlebrink, Life Christian, sr; OH Isabella Thomas, Tacoma Baptist, sr; MB RubyJoy Pikes, Charles Wright, jr.; M/OH Nicole Kelly Charles Wright, so.
4A, 3A: Toyota Center (Kennewick)
2A: St Martin’s University (Lacey)
1A, 2B, 1B: Yakima Valley SunDome