There are almost always a few “stunners” in the playoffs the week before the state volleyball tournaments.
Which not only can throw the tournament brackets out of whack, but make it difficult to come up with the final state rankings.
Of course, we all know the true pecking order will be determined in this weekend’s state tournaments themselves. And there likely will be a stunner or two then as well.
The biggest surprise to me last Saturday was Prairie’s fifth-place finish in the West Central/Southwest 3A Bi-District tourney. And I know I wasn’t alone. This was the team that was my preseason choice at No. 1 in what I considered (and still do) a pretty wide-open field in 3A.
After a less-than-impressive showing at the Puget Sound Adidas Invitational at Auburn Mountainview in early September, the Falcons dropped a few notches in the rankings, but had worked their way back up to No. 2 behind Mercer Island. They beat a good Timberline team in the quarterfinals, 3-1.
Then the wheels fell off.
Prairie lost in the semifinals to Bonney Lake, 3-2, then lost again, 3-1 to Auburn Mountainview.
Bonney Lake is a solid team and I would have had them in the rankings a week or two ago if not for a loss to Enumclaw to close out the regular season. Auburn Mountainview has shown promise on and off during the year as well.
But I would have picked Prairie to beat both.
I had to coach coach Andrea Doerfler to get the skinny. She said her team had a letdown after a very well-played match with Timberline and was also dealing with some ilnesses. But she didn’t want to make excuses or take away from the teams Prairie lost to.
“Bottom line, we just werne’t playing good clean volleyball on Saturday,” she said. “We made too many errors.”
Columbia River — a team Prairie has beaten three times during the season (the last two by 3-0 counts) — wound up winning the tournament, beating Bonney Lake 3-0 in the final.
So, I really struggled with the final 3A rankings. I still think Prairie is a legitimate contender for the state title. And guess who the Falcons face in the opening round? Unbeaten Mercer Island.
Yikes, for both teams!
Had they been on opposite sides of the bracket, I might well have predicted that they would meet in the final.
So much for that possibility.
OK, so here’s what I wound up doing (which you can simply skip to below if you haven’t already). I gave the No. 2 spot this week to Mount Si, which lost another 3-2 battle with MI on Saturday, this time for the Sea-King District championship. That’s three five-setters between those two KingCo squads.
No. 3 goes to Mount Spokane, which beat Kamiakin (No. 4 last week) for the top seed out of the Eastern Regional. Kamiakin then lost to rival Southridge and won’t even be at state. Southridge sits at No. 7 in the final poll.
I’ve got Seattle Prep at No. 4, even tough the Panthers lost to Lakeside in the quarterfinals of the Sea-King tourney. They bounced back to take third. Lakeside lost to Mount Si in the semis and then to Holy Names before eliminating Bainbridge, the Metro Mountain regular-season champion that was ranked No. 8 last week.
Shorewood, which continued an impressive run to win the Northwest 3A District title, flies in at No. 5 and Columbia River sits at No. 6, and I apologize if that seems too low. Bonney Lake is at No. 8 and I had to keep Prairie in there, so the Falcons are No. 9 with Timberline No. 10.
That might not seem fair to Auburn Mountainview, and maybe the Lions will make a great run at state. They open tournament play against another team I wish I had room for in the rankings — Stanwood.
It seems very odd to only have one Metro team in the final top-10, but most of the season you could just flip a coin between them. Holy Names, once ranked No. 1, lost only to MI and Prep at district. Obviously, Lakeside is a dangerous team, too.
But 3A will stand pat.
On to 4A, where the biggest change is knocking Curtis out and putting Union of Vancouver in. The Titans were impressive at times last weekend in the West Central/Southwest 4A Bi-DIstrict tourney. Curtis, once ranked No. 3 (where last year’s team finished at state), was not and will sit state out this weekend. Auburn Riverside, which was ranked No. 10 but went 2-2 last weekend, is out of the rankings but on to state.
The Ravens’ reward is getting top-ranked Mead in the opening round.
You likely saw that Skyline knocked off Newport in the title game of the KingCo tournament, so the Spartans land at No. 6 this week with Newport No. 7 — followed by Olympia, Union and Richland. Oly is the defending state champion and was up 2-0 in No. 4 Camas in the West Central/Southwest quarterfinals Friday before losing 3-2.
Camas wound up losing to Bellarmine Prep in the title match, 3-0. Bellarmine looked very good (other than in sets 3 and 4 against Union in the semis) and should be a contender this weekend. I’ve got them penciled in to play Jackson in the semifinals.
I was happy to see No. 1 Mead and No. 2 Jackson in opposite halves of the bracket — and I know their coaches were, too. But as wel all know almost anything can happen at state, so we’ll see if they wind up meeting for the title.
The other big playoff surprise (to me and some others) was Selah’s 3-0 win over West Valley of Yakima in the championship game of the 2A regional. West Valley was ranked No. 1 for most of the season and had beaten the Vikings twice during league play.
We’ll see how the Rams respond. Coach Katie Hinckley said it was a “wake-up call” for her players. They open the state tournament against No. 7 Capital.
I’m going with Colville at No. 1 this week, although an equally good case could be made for No. 2 Tumwater. Both are in the same half of the state bracket. No. 3 Selah and West Valley are in the upper half, along with No. 4 Burlington-Edision, the defending tourney champ. B-E knocked off Anacortes for the Northwest District title.
That should be a great 2A tournament. Remember, West Valley won the 3A crown last year and Colville was the 1A champ. So there are three returning champions in the field.
OK, that’s it for today. You can mull over the rankings and then check back on Wednesday for another edition of my volleyball notebook, The Right Stuff.
1. Mead (Spokane)
2. Jackson (Mill Creek)
3. Bellarmine Prep (Tacoma)
5. Emerald Ridge (Puyallup)
6. Skyline (Sammamish)
7. Newport (Bellevue)
1. Mercer Island
2. Mount Si (Snoqualmie)
3. Mount Spokane
4. Seattle Prep
5. Shorewood (Shoreline)
6. Columbia River (Vancouver)
7. Southridge (Kennewick)
8. Bonney Lake
9. Prairie (Brush Prairie)
10. Timberline (Lacey)
5. West Valley (Yakima)
7. Capital (Olympia)
8. Sehome (Bellingham)
10. East Valley (Yakima)