The Kamiakin volleyball team had to win three loser-out matches to earn a trip to the Class 3A state tournament.
The reward? A date with top-ranked Gig Harbor (20-1) in the first round at 11:30 a.m. Friday at Toyota Center.
“We have our strengths just as any team does,” Braves coach Morgan Schauble said. “(If) we use those, we can do well against these teams. We have had conversations as a team the last couple of weeks, that if we are in trouble, how to slow it down and do what we need to do as a team.”
That logic came into play in a loser-out match against Eastside Catholic on Tuesday when Kamiakin found itself down two sets in a winner-to-state match.
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“To be down 0-2 and come back is amazing,” Schauble said. “That is playing with heart and being mentally tough.”
The Braves will rely on the net play of 6-foot-2 senior Allison Stapleton — the co-player of the year in the Mid-Columbia Conference — 5-11 senior Leanna Shymanski and 5-10 senior Madison Judy, who also sees time at libero when the need arises.
On the other side, the Tides are led by outside hitters Lauren Hatfield (5-10) and Selena Dutton (5-10), both first-team selections for the South Sound Conference. Joining them is second-team middle blocker Rachel Howard (6-1).
“They have a strong outside hitter,” Schauble said. “She places the ball very well and can throw them to deep corners. Their middle does a good job placing the ball. They run a 6-2 and have three hitters at the net at all times.”
Though Toyota Center is not their home court, the Braves do have the advantage of sleeping in their own beds, eating nutritious meals and being able to retreat home between matches.
“There is a lot of down time at state, and we can get out of here and get away from the gym noise,” Schauble said. “It’s hard to do that on the road.”
RICHLAND VS. GRAHAM-KAPOWSIN: The Bombers (15-2) cut through the Mid-Columbia Conference like a hot knife through butter, going 14-0.
A loss to Mead in the MCC/GSL regional title game put Richland in a loser-out match against Gonzaga Prep, where the Bombers swept the Bullpups to earn their first trip to state since 2012.
“This is a big deal,” Richland coach Bob Raidl said. “It’s hard to get there. We are excited. None of these girls have been there. We want to be the last team standing. They will play hard because that is their DNA.”
Richland, ranked No. 9 in the latest rankings, will square off against the Graham-Kapowsin Eagles (9-11) at 9:45 a.m. Friday in the first round of the 4A state tournament at Toyota Center.
“The thing is, to get to the tournament, you have to be good at the end,” Raidl said. “You can’t overlook anyone because of their record.”
On Thursday, the Bombers took a tour of the courts, which are made of Sport Court flooring, different from the hardwood of the high school courts.
“Most of the girls are used to it because of club volleyball,” Raidl said.
KIONA-BENTON VS. LAKESIDE (NINE MILE FALLS):The Bears are back at state for the second year in a row after placing fourth at the SCAC district tournament.
“It was pretty tough,” Ki-Be coach Jolene Calzadillas said of the SCAC tournament. “All four teams on the West side were strong. We felt fortunate to get out of there, especially when we played Goldendale and were down 0-2. We had to beat them to get to the 3-4 match, which thankfully we did.”
The Bears open play at 9:45 a.m. Friday against the fourth-ranked Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) Eagles (18-2) at the Yakima SunDome.
“They are a little more familiar with the SunDome being at state last year and around all that volleyball,” Calzadillas said. “We went to the SunDome Tournament so everything is not such a novelty. Hopefully, we can get a couple of wins.”
Led by junior Mihaela Edwards, co-MVP of the SCAC East, and senior Tegan Carlson, the Bears (15-3) are looking for a better showing than their 0-2 performance last year.
“They are excited,” Calzadillas said of her team. “We have had some good practices. We’ve even thrown in a couple of morning practices at 5:30, and there have been no complaints. There are teams that would love to be in our shoes.”
If you go
4A-3A at Toyota Center
1A at Yakima SunDome
Admission: $10 adult, $8 students and seniors. All-tournament pass: $16/$11