High School Sports

Top-ranked Emerald Ridge sweeps Curtis to stay unbeaten

First, Jenna Mullen wore pink. Then purple. And the capper was lime green.

Choosing colorful headbands to wear in each Emerald Ridge High School volleyball match is her art.

And making big plays is her skill.

The top-ranked Jaguars survived two grueling games early before pulling away for a 25-23, 25-22, 25-14 victory over No. 9 Curtis on Wednesday night in University Place.

With the victory, Emerald Ridge (10-0, 8-0 SPSL) swept the season series over the second-place Vikings in the South Puget Sound League South Division. In essence, the Jaguars have a three-game lead for the league’s top seed to the postseason with five matches left.

“Tonight was big,” Emerald Ridge co-coach Bobby McGivern said. “We talked about it at practice, and some more today. We knew if we dropped (this match), we would be tied for first, and we didn’t want that.”

Curtis is no pushover. Last season, the Vikings advanced to the 4A state title match, losing to Bellarmine Prep.

And the Vikings have some talented underclassmen, led by junior Elly McEachern, an outside hitter, and a pair of ninth-grade starters in outside hitter Katie Yorke and libero Kasey Woodruff.

But at the end of both of the early games, Mullen — a Portland State commit — came through in the clutch.

First it was her two kills at the end of the first game — the first one broke a 22-22 tie.

And in the second game, the Jaguars clung to a 23-22 lead when Mullen sprawled to the floor from the back row to keep a point alive, leading to Ashley Wesenberg’s kill as the decisive sequence.

“I just try and relax,” Mullen said.

That is obvious in her headband choice.

“I started that last year … when I got too sweaty, so I kept switching them,” said Mullen, who has 50 different colored headbands. “And we were undefeated doing that, so I kept doing it.”

Mullen finished with 14 kills and eight digs. McEachern led the Vikings (7-2, 6-2) with 10 kills.

“We competed with them in those first games. But to be great, you’ve got to play for every single point,” Curtis coach Michael Miller said. “They are a very good team. Hands down, they are the (state) favorites.”