It was an exciting conclusion of the 2012 volleyball season last weekend with the six state tournaments.
I saw some outstanding play at Saint Martin’s University, home of the 4A and 3A tourneys. And I followed the other tournaments online with great interest.
I honestly thought we might see a local team or two bring home a state title. As you might remember, I picked Jackson to win the 4A crown and went with Mercer Island in 3A. Both had really good tournaments, but came up short.
Bellarmine Prep was unstoppable in the 4A tournament, and Prairie was a cut above in 3A. Congratulations to both, as well as the other state champions – West Valley of Yakima (2A), Castle Rock (1A), Reardan (2B) and Tekoa-Oaksdale (1B).
For this final volume of The Right Stuff, I’ve got some observations from Jackson coach Ashley Allen and Mercer Island’s Susan McKay. Both have some mixed emotions about how their teams finished.
It was all smiles from Auburn Riverside, Auburn Mountainview and Glacier Peak, and I’ve got comments from those coaches, too, along with a look at Seattle Prep’s trophy finish (again, not the one the Panthers had envisioned).
Lastly, Bonnie Foote talks about the disappointing 1-2 performance by her second-ranked Mount Si team after starting the season with super-high hopes.
And before I jump into all of that, here are some shoutouts to the local teams who took home trophies in the smaller classifications — Bear Creek finished a school-best third in the 2B tournament and King’s finished fifth in 1A, where Annie Wright of Tacoma wound up seventh.
Jackson falls short, but three-year run impresses
Ashley Allen hopes her second-ranked Jackson team can step back and look at the big picture over time.
Because the last snapshot of their state experience was another one of disappointment for the Timberwolves.
After you’ve won it all, like these seniors did as sophomores, it’s difficult to accept anything less. They were determined to go out on top again after last year’s unacceptable fourth-place finish.
But they ran into a buzz-saw in the semifinals and were beaten by third-ranked Bellarmine Prep, which went on to defeat No. 1 Mead in the championship match.
Unlike last year, when Jackson lost in the semis to eventual-champion Olympia and then stumbled again against Curtis to finish fourth, the players regrouped and finished with a victory – over Olympia, no less – to earn the third-place trophy.
“They did a nice job of coming back,” Allen said. “I think they remembered how they felt after losing (again) last year and did a nice job of improving on that. And the disappointment was even bigger this year because they’re seniors.
“I told them third place third place doesn’t feel that good right now, but when they look back they can be proud of themselves for their accomplishments the past three years to finish in the top four.”
Senior setter Haley MacDonald battled a bad ankle sprain to play in the final three matches (she sat out the opener against Gig Harbor) and was voted to the all-tournament team for a third straight year. OH Emmy Allen, Ashley’s sister, joined her on that team for a second time.
Fellow senior Miah Diirrell was key to the success as well – a talented player who sometimes seems overshadowed by MacDonald and Allen.
All will be missed next season, along with the other seniors, but the cupboard won’t be bare as junior hitters Payton Locknane and Hannah Hicks are expected back.
The big question is whether coach Allen will return with his sister graduating?
Ashley admits she has aspirations of coaching at the collegiate level and will start pursuing that goal, but added she isn’t interested in just any position.
“I’m going to be really picky,” she said. “I told the girls I’m going to start the process, but it’s going to be really tough to leave that program.”
Senior leaders deliver for close-knit Auburn Riverside
There might not have been a bigger smile in Marcus Pavilion Saturday than the one coach Chris Leverenz wore after Auburn Riverside beat No. 6 Skyline and No. 10 Richland to earn the seventh-place trophy in the 4A tournament.
She got the most out of this group, led by senior captains Brenna Bruil, Katherine Hood and Drea Burton. The Ravens’ lone loss in the tournament came in the first round to Mead.
“We played really consistent,” Leverenz said.
Especially considering they were without one of their main offensive weapons, 5-10 sophomore Precious Atufua, who had gone to Samoa because of family issues after playing some of her best volleyball at the bi-district tournament the weekend before.
“They just really came together even more,” Levernez said, crediting her three senior leaders – especially Burton, who stepped into Atufua’s role.
As usual, Bruil was everywhere for the Ravens all weekend and earned all-tournament honors.
Leverenz has had more talented teams, top to bottom, but maybe not one with better chemistry.
“There’s been no drama, no stress, honestly,” Leverenz said. “I’m very proud of them. They just played together really well.”
Islanders still feel more like a “1” than a “7”
It’s a game the Mercer Island players and coaches likely will play for awhile.
What if they had met Prairie in the 3A semifinals or championship match?
What if they hadn’t played so poorly in the first two sets against the eventual champions in that horrific first-round matchup?
Of course, they’ll never know. But in their hearts they feel they are deserving of a much better finish than the seventh-place trophy they took home Saturday.
And most of those who watched the entire tournament might tend to agree that, overall, Mercer Island and Prairie played like the top two teams there.
After surviving the 3-2 match with MI, the Falcons flew through the rest of the tournament without losing a set. It took the top-ranked Islanders another set to recover in the following match against Stanwood – remember, they hadn’t lost a match all season and were intent on capturing the state championship – but they then won nine sets in a row to earn the best remaining finish possible, sweeping fourth-ranked Seattle Prep in their final match.
And since they couldn’t win the title, they were happy that only team that beat them could. The two teams stayed in the same motel Friday night and as both left for the tournament Saturday morning, MI players yelled “Good luck!” to the Prairie girls.
“They definitely felt like Prairie was a very strong team and they deserved it,” coach Susan McKay said.
MI players and coaches gathered again on Sunday and emotions ran the gamet.
“There was definitely a mixture of disappointment and pride and there are several players who are still crushed,” McKay said. “We talked a lot about seeing the positives in the season. I told them how proud I am of the way they responded (to the loss). They played some of their best volleyball in those last three matches.”
Junior Sara Lindquist was voted to the all-tournament team and freshman Jemma Yeadon showed she was one of the top up-and-coming players in the state.
The “7th place” on the trophy might as well not be there.
“I told them seventh place does not define our team and we should not get stuck on that number,” McKay said. “If you add a line at the bottom of that 7, it becomes a 1.”
Holy Names gets it together when it counts
Of all of the rollercoaster rides area teams went on, none had the extreme highs and lows as Holy Names.
At one point, the Cougars rose to the top of the 3A state rankings. At another, they were on the brink of not making the Metro League playoffs.
One situation seemed to lead to the other, according to coach Brian Richards.
“It was hard for them to manage expectations,” he said. “They start to think they’re a No. 1 team, but they hadn’t done anything to earn it.”
Once they had their backs against the wall and faced elimination, they went back to basics.
“They literally just decided to play,” Richards said.
And play the Cougars did once they got to state, advancing to the semifinals with victories over No. 8 Bonney Lake and No. 3 Mount Spokane.
“They had a great Friday,” Richards said. “They lived up to their potential.”
Holy Names wound up losing twice the next day, to Prairie in the semis and then No. 7 Southridge in the consolation final. But the fourth-place performance, led by all-tournament choice Erica Ciez, is the best in school history.
“That’s a great finish,” Richards said. “They rose to the occasion. It’s a great legacy the seniors have left.”
Auburn Mountainview snares elusive hardware
Nicole Claudon was a senior on the 2006 team that made the first state appearance for Auburn Mountainview, just a year after the school opened.
The Lions went 0-2.
Coach Momi Bowles took teams back to state the next five years in a row. They never won more than one game.
When Bowles stepped down at the end of last season, Mountainview turned the program over to the 23-year-old Claudon. The Lions struggled with consistency, but ultimately earned a share of the South Puget Sound League 3A title and made their way back to state.
“It took awhile for everything to come together,” Claudon said.
And they saved their best for last, going 3-1 at state to finally earn that elusive trophy. Their lone loss came in the quarterfinals to Prairie. They then eliminated Mount Spokane and followed with a win over Glacier Peak to finish fifth.
“It was pretty exciting,” Claudon said, “especially for the seniors.”
Particularly for Sam Odren, the SPSL 3A MVP who was making her fourth trip to state.
“To finish her senior year with a trophy is pretty awesome,” Claudon said.
She will be difficult to replace next season, Claudon admits, but there is plenty of reason for more optimism with some good young talent returning, led by junior hitter Maya Williamson, who was selected to the all-tournament team.
Glacier Peak ultimately climbs to new heights
Glacier Peak had some high expectations coming into the season and was ranked No. 8 in the state.
But the Grizzlies didn’t play like a top-eight team early on.
“It was a double-edged sword,” coach Chris Pratt said of the early hype. “It gave them some false confidence and they didn’t feel like they had to work as hard.”
Then that confidence was shaken by several losses. Glacier Peak wound up third in the WesCo South Division.
“We had to return to basics and rebuild their confidence and remind them they are a good team,” Pratt said.
The Grizzlies showed how good at state, stunning No. 2 Mount Si in the opening round. They stumbled in the second round against Southridge, but clinched the school’s first volleyball trophy by beating No. 6 Columbia River and wound up seventh.
Pratt said he was proud of the way his team played at sate, even in the two losses.
“I was very pleased with their effort,” he said. “They seemed to improve with every game.”
Seattle Prep takes home another trophy
The trophy trend continued at Seattle Prep as the Panthers took home hardware for the fourth straight year.
It just wasn’t the type the players had envisioned.
Fourth-ranked Prep had to settle for eighth place, sandwiching a pair of wins between losses to Columbia River and Mercer Island.
The team had big goals after winning the title in 2010 and placing third last year. The opening loss to Columbia River came as a shock.
“The seniors were pretty crushed,” coach Marceen Sullivan said. “Some of them played on the state championship team. I thought they came back and battled.”
The Panthers had to win a pair of loser-out matches to get to the trophy round and sent home No. 5 Shorewood and Mount Si.
“Overall, I thought we had a pretty good season,” Sullivan said. “Against Columbia River, we made some unforced errors and in close matches you just can’t do that. But that’s just part of the game. Mental toughness is huge.
“I thought the girls did well, despite some of the injuries we had. I was proud of them.”
Mount Si left pondering ‘sucky weekend’
Perhaps no coach left the 3A tournament with a heavier heart than Mount Si coach Bonnie Foote.
“It was a sucky weekend,” she said.
Foote has had some talented teams at Mount Si, but she felt this one had a real shot at winning a state title.
“We had the tools to win it all, no question in my mind, more so than in any other year,” she said.
Foote was floored after the loss to Glacier Peak, but was pleased with the way the Wildcats bounced back to beat No. 10 Timberline in the next round. Then, though, they were sent packing by Seattle Prep and failed to earn a trophy for the first time since 2008.
“We were just too inconsistent this year,” Foote said. “When we were good we were unstoppable. But when we were bad, we had trouble with passing and serve receive. We just made too many errors.”