The Southridge Suns stand in the way of the Kamiakin volleyball team advancing in the playoffs or turning in its jerseys.
The Suns and Braves will play at 6 p.m. Thursday in a Class 3A bi-district loser-out game at Kennewick High School. The winner advances to play Saturday against the loser of Thursday night’s Mt. Spokane-Shadle Park match.
“I am super excited,” Kamiakin middle hitter Leanna Shymanski said. “It’s my senior year. To knock Southridge out in regionals would feel so good. It’s a long process to get to state, for sure. We have had it explained to us several times; it’s so confusing.”
The teams split their Mid-Columbia Conference matches, with the Suns winning the final one in four sets Oct. 19. But if the Braves want to extend their season, they will have to knock off their biggest rival.
“Me, Ali (Allison Stapleton) and Leanna have played together for six years,” Kamiakin senior libero Madison Judy said. “It’s coming to an end. It’s kind of bittersweet. Thursday might be our last time together, but I don’t want it to be. Kind of gives me chills to think about it.”
Southridge has a strong defense and solid outside hitting, but Shymanski said there is a way to beat the Suns.
“Honestly, I feel we play good defense too, but we need to be efficient where we place the ball,” Shymanski said. “That is something we have been working on all week.”
The 5-foot-11 Shymanski leads the Braves with 56 blocks, and she also has 156 kills and 43 digs.
“Blocking is a passion,” she said. “When I am on the court and focused, there is adrenaline. I want to win, and I’d do anything to help us do that.”
Judy is the same way. A natural outside hitter, the 5-10 Judy became the team’s libero partway through the season, and everyone has benefited. She leads the team with 273 digs, and she also has 111 kills.
“I just want to do what’s best for the team to get to the next level,” Judy said. “I have always enjoyed passing, so it wasn’t much of a change for me. Nothing is going to hit the floor with me next to it. My sister Elizabeth (a 2010 Richland grad) was a big libero at 5-11. I guess it runs in the family.”
Shymanski said that Judy changing positions has added confidence to the team.
“The libero has to be someone who can take charge on defense,” Shymanski said. “No one doubts her back there. It’s nice to have that trust on our team.”
Come what may Thursday, Shymanski and Judy will continue to play volleyball.
Shymanski is headed to Eastern Washington University, while Judy is off to Eastern Oregon University in La Grande.
“I’ve just worked for many years for this opportunity,” Shymanski said. “I’m so excited for the opportunity to play volleyball at a higher level. It’s what I have dreamed about since I was 12 years old.”
Shymanski talked with other schools, but she felt Eastern was the right fit for her.
“Eastern was my first official offer, and it was my first visit,” she said. “It was in my heart. That’s where I wanted to go.”
The Eastern Oregon Mountaineers are ranked No. 7 in the latest NAIA poll, and they just won their third consecutive Cascade Collegiate Conference regular-season title.
“I am very excited to go and play,” Judy said. “It will be a new adventure. It’s my type of team and my type of school.”
The only unknown is where coach Kaki McLean Morehead plans to play her.
“I have been an outside hitter, but I know she has seen me at libero,” Judy said of EOU’s coach. “She might have different plans. I will go wherever she needs me.”