OLYMPIA – It’s scary to think how much better the fourth-ranked Tumwater volleyball team can get as the Class 2A postseason gears up soon, but Courtney Bowen and the rest of the Thunderbirds hope the best is yet to come.
“There will be a lot more to come from our team,” Bowen said following the T-Birds’ win over Olympia in the championship match at Saturday’s 26th annual Capitol City Volleyball Invitational. “We haven’t peaked yet. It drives us every day more and more seeing how much we’re growing as a team.”
Tumwater defeated Olympia, 25-16, 27-25, at Capital High School to win the 16-team, all-day tournament. The T-Birds were runners-up for the 2A state title last season, while the Bears were 4A state champs.
Bowen, a senior setter who had 21 assists in the title match, was one of three Tumwater players who earned all-tournament honors. Middle hitter Hannah Hanson, who had five kills and three blocks in the title match, was named tournament MVP, and Karlee Sampson (10 kills) also was an all-tournament performer. Olympia featured two all-tournament players: middle hitter Michaela Berendt (three kills in title match) and setter Tiana McIntosh (21 assists). Puyallup’s Maddie Davis completed the six-player team.
In the title match, Tumwater got off to a hot start, which led to its 25-16 first-set victory. The second set was a different story, featuring 12 ties and 10 lead changes. Olympia rushed out to a quick 6-1 lead following a kill by Rachel Kelson, who finished with a team-best 10 in the match – five in each set.
After Olympia took a 10-8 advantage, neither team took more than a one-point lead again until the Bears went on a mini 3-0 run following a 19-all tie that forced a timeout by Tumwater. Late-set kills by Jacey Watson and Paige Walker helped the T-Birds take the lead for good at 26-25.
Tumwater coach Tana Otton said resilience enabled her team to battle throughout the day – from trailing in points, to fighting back after dropping a set.
In their first-round victory over Selah and semifinal win over Puyallup, the T-Birds won in three sets, including battling back to win two straight sets against Puyallup.
“That’s what this tournament was about, to see what we were made of in those situations,” Otton said, “and the girls responded great. Now, we just need to get consistent.”
It was a big day for Tumwater and Olympia leading up to the championship match. Each team won its pool in morning play. Then, once in bracket play, Tumwater defeated No. 2-ranked Selah, 25-21, 18-25, 15-3, in a marquee matchup of Class 2A’s top teams, and 4A Puyallup, 20-25, 25-16, in the semifinal.
Olympia, ranked No. 6 in the latest 4A coaches poll, topped Capital, 25-18, 25-19, and 4A Narrows rival Gig Harbor, 25-14, 25-18, a team the Bears lost to twice during the regular season, in the other semifinal.
Olympia coach Laurie Creighton said her team is playing its best volleyball at the right time. Injuries have forced the Bears to use different rotations throughout the season, as well as going back and forth between a 6-2 (two-setter) offense and a 5-1 (one-setter). The Bears have already clinched the third seed in the 4A Narrows going into Tuesday’s regular-season finale with league champion Bellarmine Prep.
“This has been a good week for us as a whole,” Creighton said. “This last week, playing-wise, our play has definitely turned a new direction and (Saturday), there was a lot of good stuff out there.”
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In singles, Capital freshman Ty Gentry continued his phenomenal season, winning the singles title, 6-1, 6-0, over Tumwater’s Zach Drake. Gentry also defeated Drake in straight sets in last week’s subdistrict singles title match. Black Hills’ Jimmy Do defeated Capital’s Travis Miller, 6-0, 6-2, in the third/fourth-place match.
At least the top three singles and doubles players advanced to May’s 2A state tournament.
In doubles, W.F. West’s top duo of Kenny Saari and Daniel Blomdahl defeated Capital’s Mathias Burlingame and Doug Doenges, 7-6, 6-4, in the title match. Tumwater’s Ryan Gudbrandson and Ryan Padgett topped Washougal’s Regan Townsend and Andrew Bastian in the third/fourth-place match to earn a state berth.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com www.theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick