Winning a state title has been on the minds of the Southridge volleyball team since it reached the semifinals a year ago.
The Suns returned everyone from that team, have been ranked No. 1 throughout the season, dropped just one match and went undefeated in league play.
The key to all of it, though, is not necessarily their talent — of which they have plenty — or their depth or even the coaching. Rather it has been a dedicated effort to play the best they can no matter what.
“I really think we all try to focus on doing good together and doing good even if you don’t feel that good that day, or are sick, or are upset about something,” senior Paige Thompson said. “You have to give your best effort on the court.”
The Suns have done that and it has paid off with a dream season that is four match victories from the first state title in program history. They open the Class 3A state tournament at 1:30 p.m. Friday against Bishop Blanchet of Seattle at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey.
“If we work hard and play like we know we can and everyone plays to their full potential, we should have a good weekend,” junior Jordan Mix said. “That is the goal. That’s been the goal the whole season.”
Living up to the expectation of a state title is easier said than done, but Southridge has worked hard to maintain good team chemistry and develop friendships that can overcome bickering that can develop throughout a season.
“Honestly, there is not one person on the team that we don’t get along with,” Thompson said. “Obviously, there is going to be skirmishes between girls, but there has never been a long-time feud. Everyone just gets along.”
That is evident in their practices and at their matches, and it is something they’ve honed through team dinners and attending a summer camp together.
It has paid off on the court, as the Suns have plenty of weapons. While setter Kylie Fraga and middle hitter Kimmy Brinkworth are the well-known faces of the team, Southridge wouldn’t be in this position without the rest of the lineup.
“Kim and Kylie are our foundation of this team, but those three (Thompson, Mix and Alyssa Palmer) fill in the area I need most,” coach John Lengphounpraseut said. “Especially the outside hitting, and Paige has played a big role this year. When we need a side out, she has been able to get us one more consistently this year.”
Consistency has been a strength for Southridge in winning the Mid-Columbia Conference title, finishing 14-0. The Suns then won the District 5/8 regional title, defeating Shadle Park and University High, two traditionally strong teams from the volleyball hot bed in Spokane.
“I think there was more pressure this season, just because of all the media around us,” Mix said. “I think we handled it well. I think we’ve stayed away from it and really grown together.
Now they are hoping the experience of state last season will help them cap the season with a title this weekend.
“The atmosphere is a lot louder and crazier at state,” Palmer said. “But our team has a very good mental part of the game. I think we’ll be fine if we play to our full potential.”
And if they do win a state title, it will be a rare one for the Kennewick school.
Southridge only has three team state titles in school history: the 2002 girls tennis team, 2004 baseball team and the 2012 boys golf team are the only champions.
“They have a chance to set the standard,” Lengphounpraseut said. “It is more exciting than pressure. Our girls know what we are going into — the chance to be the best team. The girls are very excited about it.”