Riley Podowicz wasn’t interested in sharing anything – especially a league championship – with her school’s crosstown rival.
The Timberline senior simply took over the early stages of the fifth and deciding game before getting some help from outside hitters Nicole Pittelkau and Emily Tate as the Blazers captured the Narrows League 3A volleyball title with a thrilling 25-18, 18-25, 25-27, 25-17, 15-7 victory over host North Thurston on Tuesday.
“This is just amazing,” Podowicz said as she emerged from a frenzied mob of Timberline students. “We just battle with Thurston every time we play each other.
“We knew it was going to come down to this.”
As it was in the first meeting, both student sections were packed. And both teams gave their respective fans plenty to cheer about.
But in the end, it was Podowicz who came up with the big plays.
“We’re certainly not happy with the outcome,” North Thurston coach Micah McBride said, “but you couldn’t ask for a better atmosphere.”
Podowicz had six kills and two blocks in the decisive fifth game, while Pittelkau and Tate each added two kills. A trio of Podowicz kills helped Timberline jump out to a 7-1 advantage in the final game.
“I just knew I needed to get off to a fast start in that fifth game,” Podowicz said. “I was able to get a couple big hits and then Nicole got one, and that just pumped everyone up.”
A Pittelkau kill increased the Blazers’ advantage to 11-5 before Tate chipped in two kills.
Back-to-back kills from Podowicz ended it, giving Timberline the 15-7 fifth-game win and the league crown.
Timberline (13-1 overall, 12-0 league) has won 11 straight since losing a non-league match to Capital (3-2) on Sept. 11.
One of the Blazers’ victories during their current streak was a 23-25, 24-26, 25-19, 26-24, 16-14 win against North Thurston on Sept. 26.
In the first meeting, Timberline dropped the first two sets before winning the final three matches.
North Thurston (12-2, 10-2) had won five consecutive matches since that defeat.
The rivals won’t have to wait very long for another showdown as they meet for a third time at 4 p.m. Saturday at Mount Tahoma High School. This time, postseason seeding will be on the line.
The winner will receive the Narrows League’s No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the West Central District III/Southwest Washington District 3A tournament, which begins Nov. 2 at Auburn Mountainview High School.
Saturday’s loser will take the league’s second seed into district play, where they will face the No. 5 seed from the South Puget Sound League/Seamount League in the opening round.
“They say its difficult to beat a team three times,” McBride said. “Hopefully, that proves to be true. It’s a good opportunity for us. We will watch tonight’s tape, learn what we can from it and try to improve.”
The top six teams from the district tournament advance to the state tournament Nov. 9-10 at Saint Martin’s University.
Timberline will be seeking its fourth consecutive trip to state and fifth over the past six seasons. The Blazers placed for the first time in school history at last year’s tournament, taking home the eighth-place trophy.
North Thurston last advanced to state in 1995, when it competed at the 4A level. preps.theolympian.com