Not that connoisseurs of the sport needed reminding, but just in case, the West Central District contingent at the Class 4A state volleyball tournament at the Toyota Center here Friday wrote it in letters visible from space:
The road to a state trophy runs through us.
And Auburn-Riverside is still the pace car.
In an immaculate opening-round performance, all seven WCD participants — defending state champion Auburn Riverside, its South Puget Sound League rivals Curtis, Graham-Kapowsin, Puyallup and Emerald Ridge; and North Puget Sound League Cascade titans Kennedy Catholic and Tahoma — won, making the quarterfinals a virtual relitigation of the district tournament.
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Except that, as Curtis libero Kasey Woodruff pointed out, “the stakes are a little higher.”
Woodruff’s Vikings, the defending champion Ravens and Emerald Ridge joined party-crasher Mead of Spokane in Saturday’s semifinals by surviving a quarterfinal gauntlet with a distinct South Sound inflection.
“I think that makes it real special,” said Auburn Riverside head coach Chris Leverenz. “We’re definitely representing ourselves well.”
What’s exciting or frightening, depending on your perspective, is that Leverenz’s Ravens (21-1) have yet to find their top gear.
“I think we can play better,” said Leverenz, after Auburn Riverside completed its second sweep of the day by beating Puyallup 25-19, 25-19, 25-18 in the quarterfinals. “We were really gutting it out for a while there.”
Leverenz attributed some of the scuffles to the adjustments required of a dynamic power team to the unusually close quarters in the Toyota Center, where the four-court format — sardined together, side-by-side — shortens service space and the sideline runways for outside hitters.
Another factor? Auburn Riverside isn’t “super-confident,” Leverenz said.
“We’re getting there. I love that my team stays connected, not just physically, but emotionally and in terms of their friendships.”
Two-time TNT All-Area player of the year Calley Heilborn had 18 kills and was the favorite target of setter Ciera Zimmerman (33 assists) to lead the Ravens against Puyallup (18-5). Anna Maracich added 10 digs, and Kate Pestova had 10 digs, 10 kills and two aces. They’ll lead Auburn Riverside into a semifinal match against Emerald Ridge at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
The Ravens beat Emerald Ridge 3-1 on Sept. 12 and again in the WCD title game last week, but will see a surging, confident Jaguars team bent on redemption of various forms in a 1 p.m. semifinal on Saturday.
“We really want this,” said Emerald Ridge senior Kava Durr, who missed the 2016 season – as the Jaguars missed state – due to injury. “Everybody knows we didn’t make it here last year.”
“It’s just great to be back,” said co-head coach Jill Fox-Mullen.
Durr, a Colorado State commit and the 4A SPSL MVP, was a maelstrom of “want” at the net during the 25-17, 25-21, 25-19 quarterfinal victory over Graham-Kapowsin. She had 16 kills and 11 digs, both team-highs.
Her energy, emblematic of the Jaguars as a whole, came as a pleasant surprise to co-head coach Bobby McGivern, given the near 12-hour wait between the first-round tip against Richland and the nightcap.
“For whatever reason, the girls were real focused,” he said. “I always felt we were in the top four in state. Our league is tough. Our district tournament helps us. It will come down to whatever team wants it.”
McGivern mentioned the importance of adjustments against familiar foes, and said he “found out what we need to do against Auburn Riverside.”
He would not elaborate.
Jadyn Mullen did a little of everything for Emerald Ridge (20-3), with 39 assists, five kills, five digs, one block and one ace. Taylor Osborne added 14 kills and nine digs, and Ella Litterell had seven kills and seven digs.
“We wanted to show (Graham-Kapowsin) that we aren’t the team they beat (on Sept. 30),” Durr said.
For the Eagles, Payton Foster had 20 kills and 12 digs, Raedyn Goudreau 25 assists, Kortney Hitt eight kills, eight digs and three aces, Madison Brockway 14 digs, and Olivia Bruglar five kills and 11 digs. Graham-Kapowsin faces Puyallup in a consolation match at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Curtis shook off a third-set lapse and adjusted its middle block to subdue Tahoma 25-11, 25-22, 14-25, 25-15 and guarantee its sixth top-four finish in program history. The Vikings’ back-row passing, serving and varied attack carried the 2015 state champs into a semifinal against Mead at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“We served them out of their system,” said Woodruff, a WWU signee who had a team-high 25 digs. “We played some crazy defense, at times. We had some good blocks, and we were putting the ball away.”
“Curtis’ lull in the third was a result of breakdowns on first touch.
“It made us one-dimensional and easy for them to dig our balls,” Vikings head coach Michael Miller said.
With that cleaned up, Curtis (19-4) was back on the offensive in the close-out fourth set, putting Tahoma “out of system” with aggressive serves and diverse points of attack, he added.
“We moved our middle and had a lot of pin action, hitting from antenna to antenna,” said Miller.
Kayla Skipworth had 16 kills and Sarah Randall had four blocks for the Vikings, and setter Haley Morton dished 21 assists.
Tahoma, which got 10 kills apiece from Emily Smith and Patience O’Neal, 32 assists from Kennedy Kibbey and 11 digs from McKenna Peters, can still clinch a trophy by beating Kennedy in the consolation bracket at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Kennedy Catholic fell 23-25, 25-18, 25-14, 27-25 to Mead in the quarterfinals. The Lancers had stellar net play from Haley Moore (16 kills), Dyamonde Schirmer (13 kills) and Sharli Oneil (10 kills). Malia Aleaga handed out 40 assists and scraped nine digs, and Julia Westhoff added 29 digs.
Capital led Lakeside of Seattle 24-23 in the pivotal third set of a 3A quarterfinal when a ferocious spike caught Cougars’ junior Emma Boyd in the head, tying the game and forcing Boyd to sub out for injury evaluation. Lakeside scored the next point to earn a set-point of its own.
That difficult sequence could go down in Capital lore as the turning point in a championship run.
A kill by Maia Nichols sparked a 3-0 run to swing the set for Capital, which regrouped and surged through the fourth game to win 25-12, 21-25, 27-25, 25-15 and secure a berth in the semifinals.
“That was just a testimony to how tight this team is,” Cougars head coach Katie Turcotte said of Capital’s recovery at the end of Set 3. “This team wants to play for and with each other. It also proves how deep my team is. I have the utmost faith in anyone on my bench.”
Freshman Devyn Oestreich had 21 kills for Capital (19-1), which has not lost a match since October.
“She made really, really smart plays. She placed the ball where they weren’t,” said Turcotte.
Senior Elise Meath in her libero jersey was a yellow blur among a sea of maroon, scouring the blue floor for 30 digs. Maia Nichols added 17 digs as serve-receive proved “pivotal” for the Cougars, according to Turcotte.
“We also did a great job serving,” she added. “Our players serve a tough ball.”
Capital plays Eastside Catholic in a semifinal at 1 p.m.
Gig Harbor, Timberline and North Thurston kept their respective trophy dreams alive with dramatic victories in the consolation bracket. The Tides overcame 1-0 and 2-1 set deficits to put away Holy Names Academy 18-25, 25-16, 13-25, 25-17, 15-4, while Timberline ran off 13 unanswered points, starting with an ace and 12-for-12 serving streak by Daja Togiola, in the pivotal second set of a 25-23, 25-16, 25-23 win that eliminated Stadium.
North Thurston survived match- and season-point three times in a win over Roosevelt that took five sets and 218 combined points. The Rams prevailed 30-28, 10-25, 25-20, 26-28, 18-16.
Hannah Yerex had 19 kills and 21 digs for the Tides (17-4), and Emily Jost added a pair of blocks in a victory Gig Harbor head coach Melissa Klein told the team would be “match number one of our streak” during her postgame debriefing.
“When you go five games, it means you lost a few,” Klein said. “We didn’t get down, and keeping our focus was pivotal.”
Gig Harbor takes on North Thurston at 9 a.m. on Saturday, with the winner advancing to play for seventh or eighth place.
It took Timberline a full set and change to shake off the disappointment of a five-set, first-round loss to Eastside Catholic and rediscover its mojo. The Blazers dropped the first game and trailed 12-4 in the second before roaring back to life.
“We stuck together,” Timberline senior middle hitter Kasey Louis said. “One person starts the fire and it just catches. We definitely picked up our energy and talk.”
“We talked about how hard we’ve been practicing for months,” added Blazers head coach Krista Manke. “You look to your right, look to your left; you’re playing for her.”
Louis had 16 kills, 13 digs and eight blocks. Hannah Johnson added 13 kills, seven aces and 18 digs, and Togiola chipped in 18 digs and seven blocks for the winners (13-7), who face Snohomish at 9 a.m. on Saturday for a berth in a trophy match.
Stadium, which fell in three sets against Ferndale to open the tournament, had a stellar first game against Timberline. Riley Clark had two kills and an ace, Mia Naccarato was nine-for-nine serving with two aces during a 9-0 run that gave the Tigers a 14-4 lead, and Mia Hall had two blocks and a kill to help close out the set.
There won’t be a repeat state champion in the Class 2A state volleyball tournament at Saint Martin’s University this weekend.
But there might be a state-champion White River.
Defending champion Tumwater, which won the title two of the past three seasons, was eliminated Friday afternoon after losing in straight sets to the Vikings (25-21, 26-24, 24-14).
“It's upsetting,” said senior Kennedy Croft, who signed to play at Gonzaga earlier this week. “We didn't want to end senior year on a loss.”
Croft, usually a dominating outside hitter, played libero during much of the postseason due to a recurring injury. She ends her career at Tumwater with program records for kills in a match (42), kills in a season (404) and aces in a season (46).
The three-time 2A Evergreen Conference MVP and three-time Olympian All-Area selection led Tumwater to titles her freshman and junior seasons, but the T-Birds fell into a hole early Friday ending Croft’s hope of winning a third.
In the opening round, Pullman won straight sets (25-20, 25-22, 25-20) to send the T-Birds (15-5) to the consolation bracket.
Croft recorded 20 digs in her limited role, and managed five kills from the back row, while junior Savannah Sleasman added 22 kills and junior Sophie Koelsch had 28 assists.
“This group has no quit in them, so right up until the final point I had hope,” Tumwater coach Tana Otton said. “These guys have overcome a lot of different stuff at the end of the season, but we struggled with defense and passing, so we couldn't get our offense going at all.”
But White River is back in the state semifinals for the second consecutive year thanks to a 3-0 win over Black Hills (25-21, 25-14, 25-16) and a 3-0 win over Ellensburgh (25-20, 25-11, 25-17).
It seems a Thursday practice with two-time Olympian Courtney Thompson has sparked the Hornets. Senior outside hitter Keegan Strobeck fueled the Hornets attack in the opening-round match against Black Hills with 16 kills while Hannah Nelson added 13. Hope Baldyga had 33 assists and libero Megan Vanderdrift, a UW softball signee, had 20 digs.
Fife cruised past Selah, 3-1 (25-18, 25-19, 20-25, 25-19), in its opening-round match, but lost to Burlington Edision, 3-1 (25-13, 25-13, 21-25, 25-15) in the quarterfinals.
So now 2A SPSL Mountain rival White River will gets its shot at Burlington-Edison in a 12:30 p.m. semifinal match. Fife will play Ellensburg at 10:30 a.m. with a shot at earning the fifth- or sixth-place trophy.
Black Hills and Washington were eliminated after two matches, like Tumwater.
Contributing writer Dave Weber contributed to this report.
2B STATE TOURNAMENT
Northwest Christian of Colbert 3, Life Christian 2: The Eagles made a run to the state semifinals, but lost to eventual state-champion Colfax and then ran out of gas in an enusing loss to Northwest Christian —but still leaves with the state fourth-place trophy.
It’s the school’s highest state finish since taking third in 2002.
After winning the first set against Northwest Christian in the third-fourth place match, the Eagles lost the new two back to back 25-21, 25-16.
They did manage to force a fifth and final set which they lost 15-12 making Northwest Christian the third place winners.
1A STATE TOURNAMENT
Chelan 3, Charles Wright 2: After their dramatic win over South Whidbey to open the state tournament, the Tarriers just ran out of steam in the state quarterfinals.
Just as they had in their first match of the night, the Tarriers (14-5) started out strong, winning two of the first three sets, putting the Mountain Goats on the brink of elimination.
However, Chelan responded in dominant fashion two take the final two sets to win the match, bringing an end to the Tarriers 11-match win streak.
Charles Wright can still earn the fifth- or sixth-place trophy. It needs a win over Kiona-Benton at 11 a.m. on Saturday to get to that trophy match.
Staff writers Chase Hutchinson and Jerod Young contributed to this report