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

November 12, 2009 at 7:35 AM

A look at today’s 4A state volleyball tourney

I’m over here in Kennewick for the Class 4A state volleyball tournament today and tomorrow at the Toyota Center. The 3A tourney runs tomorrow and Saturday, and we’ll have coverage of that, too, with an eye on the 2A event as well.

While top-ranked Mead of Spokane is the clear favorite in 4A, I wouldn’t pencil the Panthers into the championship match just yet. I think there are a number of teams that could win this thing. If Mead and No. 2 Graham-Kapowsin get through the quarterfinals, that would be a dynamite semifinal match tomorrow.

Looking at this morning’s opening-round contests, which begin at 9 and 10:30, there are some intriguing matchups. About the only “slam dunk” would be picking Mead over Tahoma.

But Tahoma, remember, shocked the local volleyball world by knocking off Graham-Kapowsin in the opening round of the West Central District tournament last Friday. It was a classic example of how anything can happen in high-school volleyball.

And that reminds me — I wrote last week that Tahoma was back at state for the first time since 1978, because that’s what the WIAA tournament-history site says, and it is normally very reliable. But I had an e-mail from a Tahoma grad who remembers playing at state in 1981, and sure enough, upon looking at the year-by-history, the Bears were there under coach Helen Shaw, who ran a dynamite program back then.

So, I did some more investigating and it looks like Tahoma’s last state appearance was in 1990, not 1978.

The Bears will have their hands full with Mead, which features 6-foot-5 phenom Alexis Olgard, a USC recruit. The Panthers have been waiting for this opportunity since having their five-year run at the top snapped last year.

The other seven first-round matches really could go either way. I’m especially anxious to see No. 4 Auburn Riverside take on No. 7 Richland. Montana-bound Brooke Bray wants to go out in style. She was part of the Riverside team that took second in the 3A tournament in 2007.

Issaquah and Kentwood have a long history and meet again today at 9. Issaquah has been playing extremely well as of late and could make a deep run in the tourney.

No. 9 Woodinville has No. 3 Curtis in the first round, and that should be a barn-burner, too. Then there’s G-K against Kamiak, the Northwest District champion. What an early showdown. No. 8 Olympia takes on a talented Jackson team. Edmonds-Woodway opens against a scary Lewis and Clark team that has come on strong down the stretch. Remember, L-C is the defending state champion.

The other first-round bout pairs No. 5 Skyview against No. 10 Southridge — and the winner of that one gets either G-K or Kamiak in the next round.

One interesting note — of the teams in The Times’ final top-10 rankings, only No. 6 Gig Harbor failed to get here. And the Tides can kind of thank Tahoma for that. When the Bears upset G-K last week, it made that side of the loser’s bracket brutal. Gig Harbor was eliminated by G-K in one of the best matches I’ve ever seen, a five-set thriller that lasted 2 1/2 hours. Believe me, the Tides are good enough to be here, but that’s the way it happens sometimes.

And it’s great to have a Cinderella time like Tahoma in the tournament. The Bears deserve it, and who knows — maybe they’ve got some more magic left.

It should be great day of volleyball, with the quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. I’ll have updates throughout the day, so stay tuned.

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