KENNEWICK -- The Kennewick volleyball team lived up to one of the biggest sports cliches in 2011.
The Lions weren't given much of a chance at being very good, but they proved their doubters wrong and advanced to the Class 3A state tournament for a second consecutive season.
Despite having a new coach, and a host of new players, as well as losing a key returner to injury, the Lions followed up on the first state tournament berth in program history with a second.
In fact, the Lions were the only Tri-Cities team to advance to the state tournament -- not bad for a squad that placed no one on the CBBN 3A all-league first team.
"I'm happy with the way we ended our season," senior Meghan McIntyre said. "I think we could have done better at state, but it is awesome to have made it there and made it that far."
McIntyre was a steadying force for the Lions all season long, and because of her big-time play in such a successful season, she is the Tri-City Herald's All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year.
"She is a really strong player," Kennewick coach Julie Maciboba said. "She is really consistently good and plays really smart."
Maciboba, a Kennewick graduate, took over for Scott Carswell and guided the Lions to state in her first head coaching job. She is the Herald's All-Area coach of the year.
"It was a great first season as a head coach," she said. "I really enjoyed all my girls. I definitely didn't think it would be that good of a season, but I'm glad it ended up how it was."
The Lions did not place at the state tournament, but they did win a match, defeating Enumclaw in four sets.
"We had a lot of fun," said Kennewick's Torie Szendre, an All-Area first-teamer. "We grew a lot as players and as a team. Hopefully they can carry that into next year."
Szendre is joined on the first team by Richland's Lauren Joseph and Alisha Bettinson, Chiawana's Sadie Sparks, Southridge's Shelby Warner and Walla Walla's Chantelle Zamora. Joseph is making her second consecutive appearance on the first team.
It was a bit of a disappointing season for Tri-City volleyball teams, as Chiawana was stunned at the district tournament and Richland couldn't overcome the injury of Bettinson, losing in the regional tournament.
Southridge fell short of its state tournament goals, getting eliminated by Kennewick for a second consecutive season at the regional tournament -- much to the delight of the Lions.
"State was awesome," said McIntyre, who will compete at Blue Mountain Community College next year, "but both years at regionals, sending our No. 1 rival home was probably the best part of the season."
2011 Tri-City Herald All-Area Volleyball
Player of the year: Meghan McIntyre, senior, outside hitter
Coach of the year: Julie Maciboba, Kennewick
Lauren Joseph, senior, Richland, setter
Sadie Sparks, senior, Chiawana, hitter
Alisha Bettinson, junior, Richland, hitter
Shelby Warner, senior, Southridge, middle blocker
Chantelle Zamora, senior, Walla Walla, hitter
Tori Szendre, senior, Kennewick, middle blocker
Jaymee Steach, junior, Chiawana, setter
Sadie Nielsen, junior, Moses Lake, hitter
Nikki Eldred, junior, Hanford, hitter
Chantel Blanc, senior, DeSales, setter
Deserea Estavillo, junior, Richland, libero
Maddie Zinsli, junior, Kennewick, setter
Best of the rest
Rebecca Niemeyer, senior, Prosser, middle blocker
Paxton Carlisle, senior, Connell, setter
Danielle Reardon, senior, Columbia-Burbank, hitter
Kendall Watts, senior, Kiona-Benton, hitter
Kim Gier, senior, River View, hitter
Suzi Davison, senior, Hanford, setter
Payton Parrish, junior, Grandview, setter
Torri Crawford, junior, Walla Walla, middle blocker