It isn’t startling North Thurston High School has a good girls volleyball team this season. The Rams return seven seniors off a team that reached the Class 3A state tournament a year ago.
No one quite expected them to be this good, though. The Rams have raced out to a 6-0 start in the 3A Narrows League, winning each match 3-0. A home win over Wilson Thursday at 6:30 p.m. would complete a perfect first round of league play.
How have they done it? Players and coaches alike return to the same word to describe the reason for the Rams’ success: Family.
“We’re more cohesive,” said Olivia Fairchild, a six-foot-2 junior middle blocker. “There’s an increased feeling of family concepts.”
Coach Jackie Meyer agrees.
“This is a fun group to coach,” she said. “They want to learn; they can put what they learn to use right away in games. They encourage each other. There’s such a family aspect.”
Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. The Rams roster includes two pairs of talented sisters: Olivia and sister Elana Fairchild, a JV/varsity “swing” player, and rotation players Alex Porter and Jocelynn Porter.
The sisters are by no means the only strong contributors. Clarissa Jenkins, the first sub off the bench during North Thurston’s run to seventh place at state last season, has become a force at right-side hitter with a .318 percentage thus far, and senior Morgan Stroud, a backup defensive specialist last season, has stepped into the role vacated by graduated all-3A Narrows libero Liz Colon and leads the team with 3.3 digs per set.
But the Fairchilds and Porters have made their presence felt, and with only Alex Porter a senior and her youngest sister Lauren a candidate to perhaps make varsity as a freshman next season, will continue to do so for a while.
Both pairs enjoy playing with their sisters.
“I’ve never played with a sibling before,” said Alex Porter, whose mom Erin taught her the game just four years ago on the sand courts of Las Vegas before the family moved to Lacey. “It’s fun to see Jocelynn grow competitively at the varsity level and help build a legacy for our name at the school.”
Alex’s contributions to that legacy are becoming etched in the stat books. A 5-9 junior who hopes to play in college next season while beginning a pre-veterinary major, she leads the team in services aces and has hit for a .456 percentage in Narrows play, with over 100 kills already. Last season she was second-team all-3A Narrows with 300 kills, 47 digs and 50 blocks.
Jocelynn’s rise to the Rams’ leading blocker at 1.5 per set is more surprising. A year ago, she played C-team, but a revived love for the game she had quit as an eight-grader prompted her to push hard through the club season and earn a spot with the varsity this fall. Playing with her sister hasn’t hurt either.
“Alex is a great athlete and she’s really competitive. I like to take that energy and use it to make myself play harder,” she said.
The Fairchilds also say they make each other better.
“It helps a lot to have her on the team. It makes me a lot more comfortable,” says Elana, a 5-foot-7 freshman and the lone ninth-grader on the upper classmen-dominated Ram roster.
Olivia, who has a .321 hitting percentage after earning second team all-3A Narrows last season with 189 kills and 68 blocks, is receiving recruiting interest from the University of Wyoming, University of San Francisco, Montana State-Billings and Saint Martin’s University. She points to another reason.
“It’s the sibling rivalry thing. She pushes me to do better because I need to be better than her.”
Alex Porter agrees.
“When she starts doing well, I work harder. I have to be better than her, always.”
Jocelynn expressed surprised at her sister’s comment.
“Really?” she said, laughing.
If nothing else, the sisters bringing out the best in each other adds to the Rams’ family atmosphere makes it really tough on opponents.