One set, Timberline was up. The next, it was Capital. Back and fourth, the top teams in the league went, battling it for early supremacy, just as they have in the recent past.
But the motivating factor in the Blazers’ 25-17, 19-25, 25-23, 12-25, 15-10 victory came just after the fourth-set loss, which was filled with Timberline miscues and sloppy play. Players and coaches huddled and did their Blazers cheer, something that worked the last time they beat the Cougars at home.
And it worked again in the deciding fifth set, when the Blazers jumped out to a quick 11-3 lead, and held on to hand the Cougars their first loss off the season.
“It feels nice,” Timberline coach Krista Manke said. “We always know walking into playing them, it’s going to be a fight. No one is going to roll over for the other. The energy is always high before the game starts.”
It was Timberline (5-3 overall, 4-0 3A Narrows League) that had the high energy at the start, building a 13-5 lead. Unforced Capital errors and key Timberline stops helped the home team cruise.
The match featured 31 ties or lead changes.
Just when Timberline looked to take command of a two-sets-to-none lead, back came Capital, led by Kristyn Ross’ back-to-back kills to give the Cougars (7-1, 3-1) a 19-18 lead in the second set. Ross finished with a match-high 26 kills and 25 digs, and when Capital needed a big play, the Cougars turned to their senior outside hitter.
It was Ross who led the Cougars’ comeback in the fourth set, when she was dominant. Four of her six kills in the fourth set were part of an 8-0 run that gave Capital momentum prior to the fifth set.
Blazers senior outside hitter Alyssa Kellar had a team-high 14 kills and four blocks, and Gatalina Schuster continued her all-around stellar play with 36 assists and contributing nine blocks. Riley Podowicz, the Blazers’ starting middle hitter, had 10 blocks.
All three of Timberline’s losses have come against top-quality 4A nonleague opponents – Olympia (3-1), Bellarmine Prep (3-1) and Gig Harbor (3-2). Manke said she wanted to schedule tough nonleague foes, and the Blazers were competitive in all of the losses.
The five-set match was the second of the season for Capital and Timberline. Capital beat Black Hills in five sets in its first match of the season and Timberline took Gig Harbor to five sets before losing.
Capital and Timberline will face each other again – perhaps with the league title on the line – Oct. 20 at Capital.
“We know we play our best when we’re talking,” Manke said. “Tonight, it proves when we’re talking, we’re winning.”