At 6 feet, the height advantage she has over the rest of her teammates is noteworthy. Her long arms, athleticism and big-time swing make her stand out as the top middle hitter and blocker in the Class 3A Western Cascade Conference.
It doesn’t take long for opposing teams to feel her presence on the other side of the net, either. More often than not, she’s there blocking a kill attempt.
Kellar, Timberline’s middle hitter, has had a breakout season in her first year in the starting lineup. A first-team all-WCC selection, she’s a big reason the 12-2 Blazers are ranked eighth as they gear up to host Port Angeles (8-5) at 6 p.m. today in a winner-to-district, loser-out subdistrict match. The West Central District III tournament begins Friday at Auburn Mountainview High School.
Timberline is one of three WCC teams playing in subdistrict matches. As the No. 1 seeds from their respective leagues, Capital and North Kitsap – winner of the Olympic League – already qualified for the district tournament, but will play each other at 6 p.m. today at Capital for seeding purposes. North Thurston travels to Olympic at 7 p.m. Wednesday for a winner-to-district match.
An opposing hitter’s challenge most times is getting the ball past Kellar. The shy yet humble junior has turned the heads of many during matches with the number of blocks she’s registered. Her and her 5-10 twin sister, Lyndsey, are the Blazers’ 1-2 punch in the middle.
“I’m so determined,” Alyssa Kellar said. “It’s different from last year and the year before. I want to go to state for my high school experience, and it makes me all the more determined to go all out.”
Just how many blocks she’ll get each match is anyone’s guess.
Her season- and career-best blocking match came in a 3-1 win over North Thurston on Oct. 19. That night, Kellar had 14 blocks to go along with six kills. She’s also had double-digit blocks against Peninsula (10) and had eight against Capital in the Blazers’ recent 3-1 win.
“We had six or seven points in a row from her blocks (against North Thurston),” Blazers setter Gatalina Schuster said. “It’s good that I have another person on the team who can be there and support us all and come up with some amazing blocks.”
Last season, Timberline had a senior-laden team that came up just short of back-to-back trips to the 3A state tournament. Kellar wasn’t in the starting lineup as a sophomore, but her game has blossomed between her sophomore season and now because of playing club volleyball. That, and a big boost in confidence, has made a difference in her junior season.
“She’s such a different kid from this year to last year,” Timberline coach Krista Manke said. “She’s a totally different player, it’s dramatic. The confidence has really helped her become a stronger player.”
Timberline’s losses have been against nonleague opponent Auburn Mountainview and Capital. Because both Timberline and Capital defeated each other in league play, Capital received the league’s No. 1 seed because it won its match in fewer sets.
The Blazers consider themselves a small but mighty team that saw their potential early. Having just eight full-time players on varsity was Manke’s choice.
Although there have been some challenges with only eight players – minimal substitutes in matches and not many six-on-six practices – she and the players wouldn’t have had it any other way. Schuster and libero Ashley Bent were the lone returning starters from last year’s squad.
“I think how small our team is shows our character,” Schuster said. “It doesn’t mean we can’t go far.”
Said Kellar: “I’m so proud of our team. I think we’ve come really far and I still think we can go further.”
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473