It wasn’t a victory she’ll ever forget, and Auburn Riverside High School senior Calley Heilborn knows as much about winning as any high school player in state history.
But in the moments after her Ravens completed a championship repeat, coming from behind to take down Mead High of Spokane 25-23, 25-27, 21-25, 25-17, 15-5 in the Class 4A state volleyball tournament title match at the Toyota Center here Saturday, it wasn’t winning that was on her mind – or behind her tears.
“Honestly, no,” the tourney MVP said, when asked if winning was what she’d miss most. “I’m going to miss everyone on this team so much.”
While one tradition of South Sound volleyball dominance continued – Auburn Riverside’s title was the seventh straight by a West Central District 4A school – another may have been born. Class 3A Capital won the first title in program history by beating Mercer Island 25-23, 14-25, 25-16, 25-14. The Cougars (21-1), who last lost on Oct. 10, started four underclassmen, including sophomore outside hitter Maia Nichols, the 3A tournament MVP.
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Heilborn, a two-time TNT All-Area player of the year and Western Washington University signee, was named the 4A MVP for the second consecutive year. She had 27 kills and 18 digs in the title match against Mead and was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Ciera Zimmerman, the Raven’s do-it-all setter who was the 1B tournament MVP as a sophomore at Christian Faith.
Zimmerman got emotional – and was gently heckled by Heilborn – during a team huddle prior to the fifth set against Mead.
“My kids all had a lot to say in that huddle,” said Auburn Riverside head coach Chris Leverenz. “Cierra told everyone, ‘I only have 15 more points with you guys’.
“Their love for one another, I’ll remember that forever about this team,” she added. “I’ve never had a team that was so cohesive. One through 14, they work their butts off, and they love each other. They’re the coolest, nicest kids I’ve ever coached.”
Zimmerman distributed 52 assists in the championship, with two aces and two blocks. Kate Pestova added 22 digs and 13 kills, Anna Maracich had 16 digs and 1.5 blocks, Camden Heilborn added 17 digs, and Brianna Ingram chipped in two blocks.
This four-year stretch for Auburn Riverside is one for the history books — a 3A state title in 2014 (when Calley Heilborn was a freshman starter alongside her sister, Gatorade Washington state player of the year Carson Heilborn), a third-place finish after losing in the 3A semifinals in 2015, and now back-to-back state 4A titles.
Mead won five consecutive 4A state titles from 2003-08 and it, Renton, Kentlake and Bellarmine Prep are the only four schools to have won at least three in a row. Auburn Riverside is now one of eight schools in state history to have won back-to-back 4A titles since the tournament’s inception in 1973.
The airspace around the net was acrobatically congested as Auburn Riverside and Emerald Ridge’s prodigious front lines battled for the third time this season, with the Ravens tripling down on regular season and district title victories to earn a state title defense with a 25-22, 25-20, 25-12 semifinal win.
Auburn Riverside did just enough to manage the Jaguars’ ferocious hitting duo of Kava Durr (10 kills, seven digs, three aces) and Tayler Templeton (seven kills, 12 digs, one block).
“We did everything I was expecting,” said Pestova, on whom the program has heavily relied in multiple facets since she moved to Auburn from Kazakhstan prior to her senior year. “Our defense was great.”
The first set was the most fiercely-contested between these rivals, Auburn Riverside rallying from a 19-17 deficit as Calley Heilborn had nine of her match-high 16 kills.
“We knew we had to stack against (Kava and Templeton),” said Heilborn, who added 11 digs. “They have an incredible offense. We also had to keep swinging; they’re pretty scrappy.”
Pestova had 12 kills, a match-high 16 digs and served two aces. Zimmerman handed out 31 assists, slapped 12 kills and had two aces.
Ella Litterell had six kills and five digs for the Jaguars, and Jadyn Mullen dished 24 assists with two kills.
Emerald Ridge had plenty of fuel left in its tank, collaborating with WCD rival Curtis for one off the tournament’s most exciting matches with third and fourth place at stake. The Jaguars erased a two-set deficit to win 21-25, 23-25, 29-27, 25-23, 15-6.
“You lose your voice coaching in a match like that,” said Jaguars co-head coach Bobby McGivern, who exchanged grins and a fist-bump with Curtis head coach Michael Miller as the teams swapped benches between Sets 3 and 4. They played each other for the 2015 state title, when Curtis won, not to mention the numerous 4A SPSL matches they’ve sparred each other in. “We know so many kids on that squad.”
“It’s a great bond among all the teams in our league,” added ER co-head coach Jill Fox-Mullen.
Jaguar seniors Durr (16 kills, eight digs), Mullen (44 assists, 17 digs) and Cailey Cashman (11 kills) capped their prep careers in style. Litterell chipped in seven kills, five aces and 12 digs for Emerald Ridge (21-4).
“We believed we could turn it around,” McGivern said. “We fought.”
Curtis fell 25-18, 29-27, 25-20 to Mead in the semifinals despite 25 digs from Kasey Woodruff, a Western Washington signee and three-time TNT All-Area libero, and strong net play by Rikki Doss, Kayla Skipworth and Sarah Randall.
Fourth place marked the best state finish since that 2015 title for the Vikings (20-5).
The WCD staged its own private battle for fifth and sixth place, too, and it was a five-set doozy. Tahoma (14-8) came out on top, beating Puyallup, 25-16, 25-20, 19-25, 24-26, 15-13.
Puyallup (19-6) claimed some redemptive hardware after its first winless state appearance since 2007-08 last year. The Vikings stayed alive by eliminating Graham-Kapowsin 25-19, 25-18, 22-25, 25-19, and Tahoma joined the Vikings in the trophy round by holding off a pesky Kennedy Catholic squad 15-25, 25-21, 25-16, 28-30, 15-9. The Lancers (16-6) survived three match points in the fourth set to force a fifth before bowing out.
For Graham-Kapowsin (13-10), Peyton Foster (19 kills, 17 digs), Madison Brockway (31 digs), Raedyn Goudreau (30 assists, 16 digs), Olivia Brugler (seven kills, five digs) and Kortney Hitt (18 digs, four kills) were standouts in defeat.
Paige Anthony had 20 kills in Tahoma’s consolation victory and Emily Smith added 10 kills, six digs, three aces and two blocks. Kennedy Kibby dished 45 assists and had 14 digs, McKenna Peters had 27 digs, and Karlee Lewis had 13 digs.
Durr, Emily Smith of Tahoma and Kaitlin Sugai of Puyallup were named to the 4A all-tourney team as hitters, along with Mead’s Maddie Lee and Shea Rubright of West Valley (Yakima). Mead setter Lindsey Russell and Curtis libero Kasey Woodruff also were honored.
Capital’s raucous, dogpiling celebration after freshman Devyn Oestreich’s kill clinched championship point captured in mise en scene the tight-knit bunker mentality that has carried the Cougars since the Oct. 4 loss at Gig Harbor cost them a league title.
“After that loss, we pulled together,” said Capital sophomore Maia Nichols, who was named tournament MVP. “We knew that if we were going to win state, this would be the year.”
“At our next practice, we asked ourselves, ‘What are we going to do from here?’” recalled senior setter Elise Meath.
Nichols had 20 kills and 22 digs in the title match. Meath, who was named to the all-tournament team, added 27 digs. Oestreich had 15 kills and four aces, Tia Grow 21 assists and Maddie Mathews 14 assists, 11 digs and two aces.
The last South Sound champion in the 3A classification? That was (you guessed it) Auburn Riverside in 2014, when it beat (you guessed it) Capital.
Capital swept Eastside Catholic 25-17, 25-19, 25-22 in the semifinals to earn its fourth title-match appearance in program history. The Cougars won their fifth consecutive set in the tournament since facing set point in pivotal Game 3 of Friday’s quarterfinal against Lakeside, one serve after junior Emma Boyd was whacked in the head by a Lakeside spike and had to leave the match for injury evaluation.
Capital closed ranks and rode a wave of solidarity past Eastside Catholic and into the championship.
“We’re jelling right now,” Meath said after the semifinal win. “Our team chemistry is amazing. We have six seniors who know one another. We communicate. We have faith in each other. We know what we want.”
Meath had 15 digs to help underwrite setters Grow (18 assists) and Mathews (14 assists), who dialed up Nichols (20 kills) and Oestreich (15 kills).
“Eastside Catholic is a really good team,” said Meath. “I think our mental game is what won it for us. You separate points. You say, ‘We’ll get the next one’.”
Gig Harbor opened the tournament with disappointment, dropping its first-round match on Friday. The scene on Saturday was more celebratory: post-match festivities included a piggyback ride for Lauren Hatfield courtesy of fellow senior Hadassah Ward, the two posing for photos as Hatfield clutched the seventh-place trophy, her arms curling around Ward’s neck. The Tides (19-4) won three consecutive matches – including two on Saturday – to take seventh.
Gig Harbor (19-4) defeated North Thurston 25-12, 25-7, 25-20 in an elimination match on Saturday before besting Snohomish in three sets for a trophy.
Against North Thurston, Hatfield had 11 kills and 21 digs, Ward 10 kills and two blocks, and Hannah Yerex eight kills, nine digs and two aces. The trio was at it again against Snohomish: Hatfield had 13 kills and seven digs, Ward 14 kills and two blocks, Yerex 10 kills, 10 digs and three aces.
Snohomish eliminated Timberline 25-24, 16-26, 23-25, 25-23, 15-9 to join the Tides in the match for seventh and eighth.
Grow made the 3A all-tournament team, along with Miahna Waters and Katie Maher of Mt. Spokane, Zoe McBride of Prairie, Adara Hamilton and Kelly Behrbaum of Mercer Island, and Eastside Catholic’s Gracie Jendrezak.
Kiona Benton 3, Charles Wright 1: After an opening match win against South Whidbey, the Tarriers had no time to celebrate as they had to turn around and face Chelan a couple hours later, which turned into a demoralizing loss for the Tarriers on Friday.
“We just had a long night,” Charles Wright volleyball coach Mindy McGrath said. “We were pretty tired, and we just didn’t rebound as well. I feel like we could have won that [Chelan] match, but we knew we got another day to fight.”
The Tarriers were forced to take on the Bears in an elimination game, and the Tarriers simply ran out of gas as they fell 3-1 Saturday at the Yakima Valley Sundome.
As they did in their two prior matches, the Tarriers (14-7) in the tone in the first set, beating the Bears 25-23. But they dropped the next three and were eliminated from the tournament.
“We were really hoping to go much further, McGrath said. “We thought we got a good draw, therefore we thought we had a chance to do some good things.”
Despite facing elimination in the fourth and final set, McGrath said she was extremely impressed by the leadership she saw from Nicole Kelly, Abbie Jackson (a University of Houston commit) and RubyJoy Pikes; three key players McGrath will return next year.
“They blew me away,” McGrath said. “They stayed composed through the two days, and were just great leaders on the floor. I hope this result really excited this team about next year and the promise it brings because of how hard they worked and how far it got them.”
Staff writer Jerod Young contributed to this report