The Richland Bombers were untouchable this season in the Mid-Columbia Conference.
It wasn’t until the Bombers faced Mead in the District 8 championship match that a couple of chinks in their armor came to light.
Richland coach Bob Raidl said he took responsibility for the loss, not having his team prepared.
He said that won’t happen this weekend when his team takes the court for the Class 4A state championships at Toyota Center.
“I think we are ready,” Raidl said. “We have had good week of practice. Things are right where they should be. We have a good team and we are playing well. We expect to do well. Our team chemistry has been good all year. We had a couple of issue, but they players got together and solved it themselves, which shows maturity.”
The Bombers open play at 11:30 a.m. Friday against Emerald Ridge.
“I watched them play against West Valley in Spokane,” Raidl said. “They have one outstanding player, but everybody is good now. Playing your game and keeping your composure is what gives you a chance.”
Richland also will have an advantage playing just a few miles from home. The players get to sleep in their own beds and eat a home-cooked meal. But that doesn’t mean playing at state got lost in the shuffle.
“Our AD (Mike Edwards) has done a really good job making this week special,” Raidl said. “We had Taco Tuesday and ice cream on Wednesday. They tried to make it a special event even though we are at home.”
The Blue Devils, led by all-league setter Noelani Helm, is back at state for the first time since 2002, and for the just the seventh time in school history.
“It’s incredible,” Wa-Hi coach Tracy Rotert said. “It’s outstanding the outpouring of emails and phone calls from the people in the community to say ‘congrats.’ ”
Walla Walla will face Curtis at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the first round. The Blue Devils are in the same half of the bracket as Mead, but in the opposite half from top-ranked Auburn Riverside, which is going after its second consecutive 4A title (third overall in four years, winning the 2015 3A crown).
“We’re excited,” Rotert said. “We are prepared for high-level volleyball. When you play those teams, you play better yourself.”
After a 10-4 record in the MCC, the Blue Devils took the long road to state.
Wa-Hi beat University in the first round of the 4A District 8 tournament, then ran into Mead, which won a quick three-set match, sending the Blue Devils into the loser-out round.
The Blue Devils responded with a 3-2 win over Central Valley, then beat Gonzaga Prep 3-1 to capture the third seed to state.
“Playing those loser-out games is intense,” Rotert said. “It could be the end of your season, but it makes it that much more special when you pull out the win. The excitement is unreal.”
Lakeside of Seattle returns to Toyota Center to defend its title in a wide-open field that includes the Southridge Suns.
The teams meet in the first round at 9:45 a.m. Friday at Toyota Center.
“I do like the matchup,” Suns coach John Lengphounpraseut said. “They are the defending state champs, but they lost a lot of key players. I don’t know their record, or what they have, we just have to show up and play our game. We will take it one match at a time and see where that takes us.”
Southridge, which was 4-10 in MCC play, beat Shadle Park, Kennewick and Kamiakin in MCC-GSL loser-out matches to earn a trip to state.
“I didn’t have a full team until two weeks ago,” Lengphounpraseut said. “We had the academic issue, Sophia (Sumner) had a concussion and Ashlyn (Dupuis) had a stomach virus. I’ve been happy to have a full team the past two weeks. Having Riley (Hebdon) back has been good. She had a good run in the playoffs, which made a difference.”
Hebdon had 27 kills in a four-set win over Kennewick in the playoffs that helped the Suns advance.
“That was the most kills I have had from a player in the 15 years I have been here,” Lengphounpraseut said. “We have had really good setting from Kennedy Conrad. In the Shadle Park match, something clicked for her and she has been really good. In the match with Kennewick, her setting was spot on.”
The Kiona-Benton Bears are back at state for the third year in a row.
The Bears open play at 5:15 p.m. Friday against Overlake at the Yakima SunDome. Win or lose, they will play again at 8:15 p.m.
“We don’t start practice until 4:15 p.m. and we practice until 6 or 6:30,” Bears coach Jolene Calzadillas said. “So we are used to playing late.”
Ki-Be got a look at Overlake at the SunDome Tournament in September, but a quick two-game match two months ago isn’t much to go on.
“They were in our pool and we beat them,” Calzadillas said. “But you don’t know if they had all of their girls.”
This year’s Ki-Be team had quite the run during the regular season, sharing the SCAC East title with Connell at 13-1. But when the postseason rolled round, the SCAC West was a handful.
Ki-Be, led by SCAC East Player of the Year Mihaela Edwards, lost a five-set match to Goldendale to start things off, then had to win three loser-out matches to pick up the third seed to state.
“They played with heart on Saturday,” Calzadillas said. “We knew it would be tough. It was win, win, win. They showed me their guts. We have been playing well, even in the loss to Goldendale.”