High School Sports

Bellarmine Prep downs No. 1 Emerald Ridge in 4 sets at volleyball 4A districts

Bellarmine Prep’s volleyball team spends a lot of time thinking about how things should look.

But it’s not just about victory — it’s about the steps it takes to get there.

So Saturday, when the defending Class 4A state champions fell to Emerald Ridge in the opening set of the West Central District III tournament title game, they turned their focus inward — and never looked back as they beat the Jaguars 3-1 (23-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-18) at Kentwood High School.

“It’s about them working together and being in sync,” Bellarmine coach Jody DeGroot said. “They know that when all the pieces come together — a good serve, a good pass — the outcome should be what they expect.”

Senior middle blocker Claire Martin said that after being caught off guard in the first set, the Lions told themselves that they weren’t going to lose again.

“Every team is going to come out hard against us,” said Martin, who tallied seven blocks. “We just have to come out harder.”

DeGroot said her team’s focus on imagery is beneficial when they get down.

“They’re able to go back to that and regroup,” she said, “and then go out and try to perform the way they anticipated they should.”

Bellarmine scored first in each set, but the teams traded leads throughout the physically intense match. Not until the Lions opened up a seven-point lead late in the fourth set did the game seem out of reach for the Jaguars, the top-ranked team in Class 4A.

Emerald Ridge junior offensive hitter Makenna Smith said that after winning the first set, they started thinking too far ahead.

“If you think you’ve got to get five points, you’re going to stress out more,” said Smith, who had seven kills and 12 digs. “So you’ve got to focus on one at a time to keep that even keel, and play calm and collected.”

But Jaguars co-coach Bobby McGivern said the loss is just another step on the quest for their first state championship. The team made school history by playing in the district title match.

“That’s a whole new ballgame,” he said. “We both know we’re going, no matter what, so it’s just a matter of us taking care of business at state.”

Curtis earned the No. 3 seed to state with a 3-2 (25-10, 25-16, 20-25, 20-25, 15-8) win over No. 4 Tahoma.

Junior outside hitter Camryn Buell said that after getting off to a strong start, the Vikings “kind of let up” and had to rally for the win.

“We had a lot of energy,” she said. “We came together as a team and played hard together.”

Bears coach Kelly Kim said that getting back to state has been “a road.” Curtis was the first team to take Tahoma to five sets all season.

“We didn’t expect this at the beginning of the season,” she said. “(But) we knew what we had, and we knew what we were what was possible.”

The final two WCD III berths to the state tournament went to No. 5 Gig Harbor, which shut out Graham-Kapowsin, and No. 6 Olympia, which swept Timberline.