Alisha Bettinson hopes the third time is the charm. The Richland High senior has seen her first two varsity volleyball seasons come to inglorious ends.
Her sophomore season, the Bombers went two-and-out at state. Last year, her junior season, she broke a bone in her foot at the first match of the district tournament.
This season, though, she’s healthy and hoping to lead the Bombers to not only the third state tournament appearance in school history, but perhaps a victory at state as well.
“I think that is a team-wide goal,” she said. “To get farther than we’ve ever been.”
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Richland, which opens the 2012 season at 7 p.m. tonight at Hanford High, has never won a match at the state tournament. With seven seniors, led by Bettinson, this year seems as good of an opportunity as any, assuming they get to state.
“We have depth and that is a big advantage this year,” said Richland coach Bob Raidl. “With seven seniors and a couple of very good sophomores, and our setters are coming around. ... I like our team a lot.”
Last season, the Bombers rolled to the regular season CBBN 4A title, dropping just one regular season match.
In the district tournament, though, that all changed when Bettinson broke a bone in her right foot after landing awkwardly during a match. Initially she didn’t think anything was wrong, as foot injuries in volleyball often involve the ankle. But she came out of the match, never to return.
“It was really frustrating,” Bettinson said. “I felt bad for the seniors. I let them down a little bit, but I know they understood because it is kind of hard to control.”
Bettinson was injured in the second set of the first match, a match the Bombers eventually lost to Walla Walla.
“It’s hard when you are going into the postseason, and the player you depended on most for kills each match isn’t there,” Raidl said, “but the team responded pretty well.”
Richland did rebound to defeat Chiawana and advance to the Eastern Washington regional tournament, but the Bombers’ season came to an end at the hands of Central Valley (Spokane).
“We talked about it as a group, and they felt kind of empty at the end of the season,” Raidl said. “It was hard to believe it was done. We had a successful season, and all of a sudden you have that one injury and all of a sudden it is over.
“I think it could help us refocus a bit.”
The Bombers will need that focus, as they are the favorites to win the new Mid-Columbia Conference. If they fulfill that expectation, they then face the daunting task of trying to steal a state berth from a Spokane school.
Last year, the Greater Spokane League and the CBBN had three state berths, this year the Mid-Col and GSL only have two berths.
If Richland is able to advance to state, Raidl and company hope to have a different ending.
“The first time we went (2009), we went and played well and lost,” she said. “Two years ago, I felt that we could’ve done better, and I think we would’ve had a legitimate shot to get there last year, but there are things that happen out of your control and you have to adjust.”
Part of adjusting is learning to play through adversity, as the seven returning seniors led by libero Deserea Estavillo and outside hitter Elizabeth Quick did last season when Bettinson went down with her injury.
“I think we all feel the same way,” Bettinson said. “We want to have one really great ending, after two years of having good years, but not ending great.”