High School Sports

Top-ranked White River girls soccer, volleyball teams showing Buckley’s close to perfect

White River senior volleyball teammates (from left) Hope Baldyga and Keegan Strobeck and soccer teammates Annabelle Hall and Haylee Gunter have their respective Hornets teams undefeated at 15-0 entering the postseason. They are shown at White River High School in Buckley on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017.
White River senior volleyball teammates (from left) Hope Baldyga and Keegan Strobeck and soccer teammates Annabelle Hall and Haylee Gunter have their respective Hornets teams undefeated at 15-0 entering the postseason. They are shown at White River High School in Buckley on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. toverman@theolympian.com

If you’re a female athlete at White River, just pick a fall sport. There’s a good chance your team is undefeated.

It’s a special year for the Hornets as four girls teams — soccer, volleyball, golf and cross country — all had perfect regular seasons.

Chris Gibson, White River’s athletic director, said this is the first time in the 21 years he’s been at the school that he’s seen this happen.

“It’s a very unique situation we’re in here with our girls sports,” Gibson said. “Our kids get a ton of credit. Our kids work hard. They are dedicated. It’s been a nice run for quite a few years now.

“It’s funny I had a fellow athletic director ask me last night, ‘How do you guys do it here?’” he added. “It starts young in our community. We have youth programs that are real beneficial to what we do here at the high school level.”

White River’s girls soccer team is ranked No. 1 in The News Tribune’s High School girls soccer rankings at 15-0-0. It plays Port Angeles in the 2A West Central District playoffs at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Franklin Pierce Stadium with a shot to qualify for the district title.

And volleyball? They are 15-0 and ranked No. 2 in the state in a coaches poll conducted by the Washington State Volleyball Coaches Association. It won the 2A SPSL title on Saturday over Orting and gets a bye into Friday’s second round of the West Central District volleyblal tournament after heading to the 2A state semifinals a year ago.

White River’s girls cross country team finished fifth in its district to qualify for Saturday’s state championships in Pasco.

Not bad for Buckley.

HOPE IN HALL

Annabelle Hall almost lost her left hand her freshman year, but it didn’t happen on the soccer field.

The star forward for White River was playing ping pong and injured her wrist when she reached under a fireplace to retrieve the ball.

“Something stuck into my wrist and took out 80 percent of my nerve,” Hall said. “So over the next week or two my finger started to die and so we went to a hand specialist and they rushed me in for emergency surgery.”

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White River senior soccerl player Annabelle Hall, the reigning 2A SPSL Mountain MVP, at White River High School in Buckley on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. Tony Overman toverman@theolympian.com

But the next day, Hall competed in the state track and field meet not realizing how serious the injury was.

“I was on a relay team and we had to switch all of our handoffs, which I felt really bad about,” Hall said.

Surgery saved Hall’s hand but after three years she still doesn’t have feeling in her thumb or index finger.

She said the experience toughened her, and her legs, fortunately for her, have been far more reliable. She’s committed to Eastern Washington University for soccer as the reigning 2A SPSL Mountain most valuable player.

And the injury also inspired her career path.

“My anesthesiologist was the only person who calmed me down before my surgery,” Hall said. “I was rushed in and had no say in anything that was going on.”

More recently she went with one of her friends who was having an ACL surgery and got to see how her anesthesiologist worked. After seeing how important the role is for a patient’s well-being, Hall has decided that’s what she’ll pursue in college.

Right now however, Hall is still busy filling the important role she has on the soccer field. She has scored 24 goals this year after scoring 29 goals with 15 assists as a first-team News Tribune All-Area forward last year.

The Hornets are loaded, with 11 seniors hungry for a deep run in the playoffs, like when they lost to Sehome in the 2010 state title match. They lost in the first round of state, 1-0, to Ridgefield last year.

Having a new head coach in Joe Birklid who has brought with him 12 years of experience coaching at the club level with Washington Premier, could help push the girls soccer team over the hump in the postseason.

STRAIGHT OUTTA C-TEAM

The volleyball team have similar aspirations to go further.

Senior outside hitter Keegan Strobeck has grown into a standout outside hitter for a volleyball team that has won three consecutive league titles. But this is a long way from Strobeck’s freshman year, when she was the C-Team player with an attitude problem.

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White River senior volleyball player Keegan Strobeck at White River High School in Buckley on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. Tony Overman toverman@theolympian.com

“I wanted to move her up (from C-team), but every time I tried to move her up to JV she’d make one of the coaches mad,” White River coach Lina Randall said. “She’d have an attitude, roll her eyes, say something rude. It just wasn’t good, so she spent that whole first season down on C-team. I probably tried to pull her up four different times.”

That offseason Strobeck got the opportunity to play club volleyball with fellow teammate and future varsity co-captain Hope Baldyga.

“Hope changed my whole perspective on everything,” Strobeck said. “She influenced me to be a better person and realize who my real friends are.”

Through the course of the club season Strobeck bonded with Hope and her other teammates and felt part of a family.

She returned her sophomore year a changed person and soon became a key leader on varsity.

On senior night her parents wore T-shirts that said, “Straight outta C-team” which Randall said was both hilarious and special because it signified how far Strobeck has come.

“There are not a lot of people that can say they were on C-team their freshman year and starting varsity their sophomore year,” Randall said.

And not many expected the Hornets could be as good as last year, when they had 2A SPSL Mountain MVP Kendall Bird — who became White River’s all-time leading scorer in basketball, and reached the state semifinals for the second time since 2011.

But here they are.

Just like the rest of these Buckley teams.

preps@thenewstribune.com

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