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The latest news and analysis on high-school sports around the Seattle area

November 12, 2007 at 9:54 AM

Volleyball heaven in Kennewick

What a wild weekend! From football to volleyball to swimming to soccer, prep enthusiasts had quite a menu to choose from.

Those of you who didn’t make it over to Kennewick for the 4A, 3A and 2A state volleyball tournaments missed some outstanding performances. The talent level continues to improve every year.

A week ago I asked if anyone could beat Mead of Spokane in the 4A tourney. Nope. It sure looked as though Rogers of Puyallup was going to pull off the upset in the semifinals after taking the first two games from the Panthers. But, as champions do, Mead found a way to get the job done and went on to claim an unprecedented fifth straight title.

Can you say six-peat? No reason to believe Mead won’t win it all again next year, especially with 6-foot-5 Alexis Olgard back as a junior. So, what is it about that team? Coach Judy Kight deserves much of the credit, but she is quick to share it.

“I keep getting these amazing kids,” she told me at the beginning of the season. “They work really hard. They know there’s high expectations and they want to meet those.”

After a shaky first round against Inglemoor, senior Emma Olgard (Alexis’ sister)admitted the Panthers felt a lot of pressure to repeat. Part of it was not wanting to be the team that had the string end. Another part was not wanting to let their coach down.

As one opposing coach told me, “They just know they’re going to win. People think they can beat Mead, but few people actually believe it.”

Kentwood players believed it ever since losing 3-2 to Mead in last year’s quarterfinals. The Conquerors craved a rematch in this year’s title game. But they failed to get there, losing in five games in the semifinals to Lewis and Clark, another Spokane team that is a traditional power. One of the most entertaining players in the 4A tourney was L-C junior Oceana Bush, who is just 5-6 but can jump out of the gym and really packs some punch. Without her, the Tigers lose that semifinal match.

Kentwood came back to claim third and will take another crack at the title next season. You can’t help but wonder how different it might have been if the Conquerors had Alison Fairchild for the tournament. Fairchild, a first-team All-South Puget Sound League North Division choice as a junior, missed the entire season after suffering a knee injury playing club ball last spring.

Although the Conks lose a couple of talented seniors in Bre Boyce and Savannah Feist, a pair of two-time first-team selections, they should return loads of talent (let’s hope there are no more club mishaps!).

Jessie Genger was outstanding all weekend, as she was throughout the season. She gets my vote as the most improved player in the area, if not the state — not that she was too shabby last year. Genger was just a steady force who never seemed to have an off match.

Kudos to the other area 4A teams who took home some hardward — Kamiak (fourth), Rogers (sixth) Curtis (seventh) and Monroe (eighth).

In Class 3A, Auburn Riverside and Bishop Blanchet both finished strong. I thought the Ravens might win it all after knocking off Kamiakin of Kennewick in the semifinals. But unheralded Hanford had other ideas and swept them, 3-0. The Falcons also ended Blanchet’s hopes of securing a second straight championship, bumping the Braves in the semifinals.

Riverside coach Chris Leverenz knew her team didn’t play its best match against Hanford, but gave the Falcons their due.

“They were amazing,” she said more than once.

Amazing is a good word to describe Auburn Riverside’s Dominika Kristinikova, the exchange student from Slovakia. I had not seen her play before last weekend, and she’s the real deal — one of the best players in either of the 4A or 3A tourneys. Her jump sets reminded me a little of Courtney Thompson, the former Kentlake and UW setter, and she delivers kills in the clutch, too.

Kristinikova will be back in her native country next fall, but that doesn’t mean Auburn Riverside can’t make another trophy run, especially with 6-foot Brooke Bray returning as a junior. The Ravens might be back up at the 4A level for 2008-09, but should still contend. Could be some great Kentwood-Riverside matches next year.

Blanchet players certainly have nothing to hang their heads about after their third-place finish. The pressure appeared to get to them against Hanford, but then again Hanford had a lot to do with that. The Braves looked like their old selves in the consolation final.

Holy Names was the feel-good story of the 3A tourney, bouncing back from the first-round loss to Auburn Riverside to take fifth, the school’s first volleyball trophy. Shorecrest (fourth), Kennedy (seventh) and Mount Si (eighth) all deserve high-fives, too.

Oh, we shouldn’t forget King’s (third in 1A) and Archbishop Murphy (fifth in 2A) either. Have we got some great volleyball teams around here or what?

So, what was your favorite part of the weekend? You prep football junkies certainly had plenty to feast on!

— Sandy Ringer



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