High School Sports

Emerald Ridge volleyball rallies from first set loss to reach semifinals

If ever there were a time for a timeout, this was it.

Emerald Ridge’s volleyball team was just 13 points from earning a trip to the state tournament when it began to falter in its Friday quarterfinal match with Graham-Kapowsin at the Class 4A West Central District Tournament.

After watching their South Puget Sound League South rival score six unanswered points to tie the score late in their fourth set, co-coach Bobby McGivern gathered his players around and delivered a simple message: Focus on the pass.

“I told them ‘If you’re an outside hitter, pass first before you run your route. Let’s get the pass first, and then we’ll be OK.’ ”

And they were, as the Jaguars bested the Eagles 23-25, 25-15, 25-14, 25-20 to earn a berth to Saturday’s semifinal against Curtis at Kentwood High School.

“It’s a great feeling,” said senior Jessica White. “Our chemistry this year is amazing, and we’re going to take it all the way.”

Graham-Kapowsin coach Loni Parks said her team was buoyed by beating Emerald Ridge in the opening set.

“We try all year to beat those guys,” she said. “They’re one of the best teams ever, but I just tell my girls it’s never impossible.”

Emerald Ridge senior setter Isabella Zubrod said dropping the first set was a key lesson for Jaguars, the state’s top-ranked team in Class 4A.

“Now we know we can come back from a first-(set) loss,” she said, adding that the game was “both emotionally and physically an amazing battle.”

In its quarterfinal match, Curtis shut out Gig Harbor 25-23, 25-21, 25-13.

Vikings coach Michael Miller admitted that halfway through the first set, he started to worry that his team wouldn’t be able to pull out the win.

“But all season, my kids have battled back and they deserve it,” he said. “They played hard tonight.”

Senior setter Kaycee Shaffer said that being aware that the game’s outcome would determine whether Curtis would go to state helped them prevail.

“We dug deep and came together as a team, got a lot of energy going, and came through,” she said.

Also moving on to the semifinals are defending state champion Bellarmine Prep, which shut out Kentridge, 3-0, and Tahoma, which swept Timberline 3-0.

Bellarmine coach Jody DeGroot said that her team is aware that it has a target on its back.

“It’s part of the challenge but it’s not something that this team has spent time dwelling on, or talking about,” she said. “It’s a new year and a new team.”

Defending their state title starts at the district tournament, DeGroot said.

“Persistence and focus all the way through,” she said. “And not looking too far ahead and taking care of each point at a time.”