Change to believe in

State Volleyball: Decade after switching to rally scoring, even skeptics have bought in

mwochnick@theolympian.comNovember 9, 2012 

The implementation of rally scoring in high school volleyball across Washington a decade ago might’ve compared to going to the dentist for Selah High School coach Kay Aberle.

She and other longtime coaches statewide knew the change was coming, but that didn’t mean they were all excited about it.

“I was reluctant to give up the old way,” said Aberle, the Vikings’ coach since 1993.

This weekend’s state volleyball tournaments across Washington, including the 4A and 3A tournaments at Saint Martin’s University and the 2A tournament at Pierce College in Lakewood, mark the 10-year anniversary rally scoring came to the high school level.

Gone is traditional side-out scoring, a best-of-three to 15 points format. Also gone are the days when lengths of matches were predictable depending on the opponent, ranging from 30 minutes to sometimes 21/2 hours long, and when teams would sit at 5 points apiece for minutes at a time.

The change in scoring – and the addition of the libero, a back-row defensive specialists who wears a different colored jersey from her teammates – have been the most radical rule changes over the past 30 years. And to most coaches, it’s made for a better game and more excitement for fans.

“It’s the way to go,” said longtime Mead coach Judy Kight, who has led the Panthers to seven state championships during her 23-year tenure. “I can see how it’s a positive thing.”

The fall of 2003 was a big year of change for high school volleyball in Washington.

Earlier that year, the National Federation of State High School Association’s Volleyball Rules Committee affirmed the switch to rally scoring for high school volleyball by the 2004-05 season, but the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) and 21 other states’ associations began rally scoring that fall amidst a natural progression of the game at other levels; rally scoring had already been in the club level, as well as the college and professional ranks.

Pool play during Washington state tournaments also was eliminated in favor of championship and consolation rounds that year.

In rally scoring, two teams play the best three-out-of-five sets. Game-point through the first four sets is to 25 and a team must win by two points. The fifth and deciding set is played to 15 points, and again, a team must win by two.

Unlike traditional side-out scoring, rally scoring awards points after each play, regardless of which team serves. A missed serve means a point for the opposing team, as well as being awarded a serve, as opposed to just losing the serve as in side-out scoring. A “let serve,” a serve that hits the net and continues across the net into the opponent’s side of the court, means the ball is still in play as opposed to a re-serve.

Kight, like Aberle at Selah, was one of the veteran coaches who wasn’t initially thrilled with the impending changes in 2003.

Kight’s Mead program just earned fifth place at the 2002 4A state tournament and side-out scoring had its big moments for her team. During one of her team’s state appearances during the side-out scoring days, they trailed 14-1 in a set and came back to win it.

“That’s not going to happen in rally scoring, I’ll tell you that right now,” Kight said. “But side-out scoring, it did.”

Longtime Olympia coach Laurie Creighton had a similar story, but her team overcame the odds against a rally-scoring comeback. The Bears bested Kentwood last season, 23-25, 25-18, 14-25, 25-6, 15-13 to claim their second state title.

With the two teams tied at two sets apiece going into the fifth set, Olympia trailed Kentwood, 8-3, in the first-to-15 set.

The five-point deficit was steep, but the Bears rallied to join the 1998 Olympia team as state champions.

“It was nearly statically impossible for us to do what we did,” said Creighton, who is in her 34th season coaching the Bears with more than 700 career wins. “That’s super hard to come back in a 15-point rally score situation.”

When Olympia topped Aberle’s Selah team for the 1998 AA state title, Selah took the first set, 15-8, but the Bears – playing in front of a hometown crowd also at Saint Martin’s – won the final two sets, 15-12 and 15-12 to capture the program’s first state title in side-out scoring. Creighton remembers multiple occasions when her team was “so far behind” but caught up.

“It was just as exciting, but almost in a different way,” she said.

What all coaches agree upon with rally scoring is that’s it has added excitement for fans and created a more fan-friendly game. The fifth set to 15 points with a match on the line and teams scoring on every possession can create an electric atmosphere.

“Every point means something,” said North Thurston coach Micah McBride, who has led the volleyball program to its first state berth in 17 years. “It’s done leaps and bounds for the game.”

And for Aberle, who has won five state titles at Selah, just outside Yakima, she’s turned into a believer of rally scoring.

“I think it’s a better game,” she said. “I can’t imagine going back.”

CLASS 4A STATE VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT

Today-Saturday, Saint Martin’s University and Timberline High School, Lacey

Today’s first-round matches

11:45 a.m.: Newport of Bellevue (17-2) vs. Emerald Ridge (16-3)

1:30 p.m.: Gig Harbor (15-5) vs. Jackson (15-1)

1:30 p.m.: Puyallup (13-5) vs. Richland (13-3)

1:30 p.m.: Lake Stevens (14-5) vs. Bellarmine Prep (18-1)

3:15 p.m.: Union (14-6) vs. Skyline (15-3)

3:15 p.m.: Olympia (12-7) vs. Wenatchee (11-1)

3:15 p.m.: Monroe (14-3) vs. Camas (16-2)

5:15 p.m.: Mead (14-0) vs. Auburn Riverside (13-5)

FAVORITES

Jackson Timberwolves

Coach: Ashley Allen

How they qualified: Won District 1 tournament

Last state appearance: 2011; fourth place

Key players: OH Emmy Allen, sr.; S Haley McDonald, sr.; OH Miah Diirell, sr.

Notable: The Allens are sisters, with coach, Ashley, 7 years older than the Timberwolves’ top player, Emmy, a WSU recruit. They’ve already won one state title together in 2010, and they began this season ranked No. 17 nationally by PrepVolleyball.com.

Mead Panthers

Coach: Judy Kight

How they qualified: Won East regional tournament

Last state appearance: 2011; did not place

Key players: S Jonni Door, sr.; OH Dana Norris, sr.; MH Hannah Zalopany, sr.

Notable: Mead’s tradition is second to none – 14 consecutive state berths with seven first-place trophies. Last year was the first time since 1997 that the Panthers failed to place at state. Mead topped Jackson in the annual Crossover Classic in October in what many believed to be a 4A state finals preview.

CONTENDERS

Bellarmine Prep Lions

Coach: Jody DeGroot

How they qualified: Won West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament

Last state appearance: 2011; eighth place

Key players: OH Courtney Schwan, jr.; S Katy DeGroot, sr.; L Julie Wright, jr.

Notable: Last season’s state title-winning hopes ended in the opening round, and the two-time defending district champions are looking for more. Schwan, who has verbally committed to UW, was named to the U.S. Youth National Team last summer, and is the top recruit for the Class of 2014.

Camas Papermakers

Coach: Julie Nidick

How they qualified: Placed second at West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament

Last state appearance: 2011 (Class 3A); did not place

Key players: S Abbie Younkin, sr.; OH Brindl Langley, sr.; OH Natalie Zea, sr.

Notable: The Papermakers’ transition to Class 4A this season has been a smooth one – GSHL champions and finished runners up at the bi-district tournament last week, falling to Bellarmine in straight sets. Camas has a lengthy tradition at state – 11 appearances since 1998.

MIGHT SURPRISE

Emerald Ridge Jaguars

Co-coaches: Bobby McGivern and Jill Fox-Mullen

How they qualified: Placed third at West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament

Last state appearance: 2005; third place

Key players: OH Jenna Mullen, so.; L Leia Roy, sr.; S Isabella Zubrod, so.

Notable: The Jaguars might be young, but they are talented. They heavily rely on a quartet of sophomores, led by Mullen, who has pounded more than 200 kills this season. Every time the Jaguars have qualified for state (five), they’ve earned a trophy.

Olympia Bears

Coach: Laurie Creighton

How they qualified: Placed sixth at West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament

Last state appearance: 2011; state champions

Key players: MH Michaela Berendt, sr.; OH Rachel Kelson, jr.; S Tiana McIntosh, sr.

Notable: Don’t count out the defending state champions yet. Injuries took their toll earlier in the season, but the Bears believe they’ve found their groove. This is Creighton’s tallest team in 34 years as coach, led by Villanova-bound Berendt, who stands 6-4.

Newport (Bellevue) Knights

Coach: Jeremy Brown

How they qualified: Placed second at KingCo tournament

Last state appearance: 2011; seventh place

Key players: OH Casey Schoenlein, jr.; S Emmy Freed, jr.; OH Anna Crabtree, jr.

Notable: The Knights won 17 of their previous 18 matches until running into red-hot Skyline in the KingCo tournament title match. Look for big things from the 6-3 Schoenlein, recently named MVP of the KingCo. She and Crabtree also are experienced beach volleyball players.

Puyallup Vikings

Coach: Tony Batinovich

How they qualified: Placed fifth at West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament

Last state appearance: 2011; fifth place

Key players: OH Maddie Davis, sr.; MH Braylie Jeffers, jr.; S Makenzie March, sr.

Notable: Despite a two-match losing skid to non-state-qualifying teams to end the regular season, the Vikings turned their play around when it mattered most. The team went 3-1 at district, including knocking off Kent-Meridian, 3-0, to earn a state berth.

Richland Bombers

Coach: Bob Raidl

How they qualified: Placed second at East regional tournament

Last state appearance: 2010; did not place

Key players: OH Liz Quick, sr.; S Macey Weitz, jr.; OH Alisha Bettinson, sr.

Notable: The Bombers were on the brink of elimination in their winner-to-state regional match against Central Valley before winning in five sets after trailing 2-0. Quick not only is a top-notch hitter, but she’s also a nationally-ranked pole vaulter. Richland has never won a state trophy.

Skyline Spartans

Coach: Callie Wesson

How they qualified: Won KingCo tournament

Last state appearance: 2011; sixth place

Key players: OH Halle Erdahl, sr.; OH Crystal Anderson, sr.; L Kennedy Stoa, sr.

Notable: The Spartans come into state with big momentum after beating Newport in the KingCo tournament title match. The team’s size likely will create a mismatch for their opponents; seven players range from 5-10 to 6-2.

Monroe Bearcats

Coach: April Munoz

How they qualified: Placed second at District 1 tournament

Last state appearance: 2008; did not place

Key players: S D.D. Lattimore, sr.; OH Melina Seabrook, sr.; L Jannae Groeneweg, sr.

Notable: The underdog role has seemed to fit the Bearcats all season, but they steamrolled through the Wesco North undefeated before running into Jackson for the district title. This is the program’s first state berth since 2008 when it ended a four-year state run.

LONGSHOTS

Gig Harbor Tides

Coach: Sue Westering

How they qualified: Placed seventh at West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament

Last state appearance: 2010; did not place

Key players: OH Courtney Jost, sr.; MH Maddie Knecht, sr.; MH Liz Frederickson, jr.

Notable: The Tides can overwhelm many teams with their height across the net, led by Knecht, who is 6-3. She tallied 10 blocks in two district tournament matches last week, including five in a winner-to-state match win over Curtis. The program hasn’t won a state trophy since 1997 (seventh).

Lake Stevens Vikings

Co-coaches: Amy Wiklund and Kyle Hoglund

How they qualified: Placed third at District 1 tournament

Last state appearance: 1989

Key players: L Alexis Alverson, jr.; OH Emily Vandergrift, so.; OH Kahlia Kelliher, jr.

Notable: What a way to enter the state tournament for the first time in 23 years. The Vikings did it the hard way, winning four consecutive loser-out matches at the district tournament. Alverson had a match-high 20 kills in a 3-1 win over Eastlake for the final state berth.

Union Titans

Coach: Josh Kreunen

How they qualified: Placed fourth at West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament

Last state appearance: 2008 (Class 3A); did not place

Key players: OH Megan LaFond, jr.; OH Rhiannon Morfin, sr.; S Sammy Savage, sr.

Notable: All three of the Titans’ losses before the bi-district tournament came courtesy of GSHL champion Camas. Union took Bellarmine Prep to five sets after trailing two sets to none at the bi-district semifinals.

Wenatchee Panthers

Coach: LeAnne McGahuey

How they qualified: Won District 6

Last state appearance: 2011; did not place

Key players: OH Rachel Lieber, jr.; OH Sydney Rae Berg, sr.; MH Christie Adams, sr.

Notable: Playing in their third consecutive state tournament, this is the most experienced postseason team the Panthers have had. No team has been able to defeat Wenatchee since mid-September, when it suffered a Big Nine League loss to Eisenhower.

Auburn Riverside Ravens

Coach: Chris Leverenz

How they qualified: Placed eighth at West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament

Last state appearance: 2009; third place

Key players: MH Brenna Bruil, sr.; OH Katherine Hood, sr.; S Carson Heilborn, so.

Notable: Facing elimination at the district tournament, Bruil came up clutch in the team’s 3-0 win over Kentwood to send the Ravens back to the state tournament for the first time since Bruil’s freshman season when the program finished third in 4A. All of Auburn Riverside’s players range from 5-7 to 5-10. CLASS 3A STATE VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT

Today-Saturday, Saint Martin’s University and Timberline High School, Lacey

Today’s first-round matches

8 a.m.: Auburn Mountainview (14-5) vs. Stanwood (12-5)

8 a.m.: Prairie (16-2) vs. Mercer Island (21-0)

8 a.m.: Holy Names (11-10) vs. Bonney Lake (12-3)

9:45 a.m.: Lakeside of Seattle (12-11) vs. Mount Spokane (14-2)

9:45 a.m.: Glacier Peak (12-6) vs. Mount Si (16-4)

9:45 a.m.: Timberline (16-3) vs. Southridge (15-6)

11:45 a.m.: North Thurston (14-4) vs. Shorewood (13-3)

11:45 a.m.: Columbia River (13-6) vs. Seattle Prep (17-4)

Team that will travel the furthest distance: Mount Spokane (328.3 miles)

Team that will travel the shortest distance: North Thurston (1.8 miles)

FAVORITES

Mercer Island Islanders

Coach: Susan McKay

How they qualified: Won District 2 tournament

Last state appearance: 2011; did not place

Key players: OH Sarah Lindquist, sr.; OH/MH Kris Brackmann, sr.; MH Lottie MacAulay, sr.

Notable: The Islanders spent two weeks in October atop the statewide rankings. Ten of the 14 players are seniors, and the Islanders have a big advantage height-wise; five players stand 5-foot-10 or taller (three taller than 6 feet). The Islanders won the District 2 tournament, topping Mount Si in five sets in the title match.

Mount Si Wildcats

Coach: Bonnie Foote

How they qualified: Placed second at District 2 tournament

Last state appearance: 2011; sixth place

Key players: OH Lyndsay Carr, jr.; S Lauren Smith, sr.; L Gen Knoppi, sr.

Notable: Carr, at 6-2, has been labeled as one of the top players in the Class of 2014. She had a record-breaking quarterfinal match of the Sea-King tournament against Eastside Catholic, erupting for a school-record 37 kills. It’s the second time this season she’s broken the single-match school record for kills; she had 35 in a match in September.

CONTENDERS

Seattle Prep Panthers

Coach: Marcene Sullivan

How they qualified: Placed third at Sea-King district tournament

Last state appearance: 2011; third place

Key players: MH Maddi Holman, sr.; OH Madison Burnett, jr.; S Katie Bubar, so.

Notable: The Panthers were Metro League champs for a second consecutive year. Sullivan is in her second season back with the Panthers after coaching the program for three seasons in the mid-1990s. The Panthers narrowly earned a state berth after needing five sets to eliminate Eastside Catholic in a loser-out match at districts.

Mount Spokane Wildcats

Coach: Dave Whitehead

How they qualified: Won East regional tournament

Last state appearance: 2011; did not place

Key players: OH Kennadie Clute, sr.; S Paiton Larson, jr.; MH Brooke Reilly, sr.

Notable: Few teams have been able to shut down Clute, a 6-footer who is bound for Montana State. Since the program’s first state berth in 2006, it has earned four state trophies (seventh, second, fourth, fourth).

Prairie Falcons

Coach: Andrea Doerfler

How they qualified: Placed fifth at West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament

Last state appearance: 2011; fifth place

Key players: S Tori Porter, sr.; MH Karlee Lubenow, sr.; OH Kaylee Warren, jr.

Notable: One bad weekend doesn’t discount what Prairie has done this season. The Falcons are big at the net with four players being 5-10 or taller, but the range in heights of the roster go from 6-2 (Kaitlyn Sitton) and 4-11 (Malea Doerfler).

MIGHT SURPRISE

Columbia River Chieftains

Coach: Moe Melhart

How they qualified: Won West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament

Last state appearance: 2009; did not place

Key players: S Morgan Ambrose, sr.; MH Kathrine Kofoed, sr.; OH Evi Wilson, fr.

Notable: The Chieftains have flown under the radar, but played their best volleyball at last weekend’s district tournament. The team didn’t drop a set. They aren’t the tallest squad, but their strength is speed. Their only losses have come against GSHL 3A champion Prairie.

Timberline Blazers

Coach: Krista Manke

How they qualified: Placed fourth at West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament

Last state appearance: 2011; eighth place

Key players: MH Riley Podowicz, jr.; S Hunter Manke, jr.; OH Nicole Pittelkau, sr.

Notable: The Blazers are on the rise in the state ranks. Timberline won its first state trophy last year and this year is the Blazers’ fifth state berth in a row. Timberline, the 3A Narrows League regular-season champions, are experienced in five-set matches, winning four of the past six it has played.

Shorewood Thunderbirds

Coach: Jennifer Chartrand

How they qualified: Won at District 1 tournament

Last state appearance: 1998; did not place

Key players: OH Monica Postor, sr.; S Marianne Kellogg, sr.; OH Delaney Hopen, fr.

Notable: Postor might be small in frame (5-5), but the senior has come through with big kill numbers. In a five-set win over Meadowdale to clinch the 3A Westco South title, Postor had a match-high 22 kills and 35 digs. The T-Birds won all three of their district matches last week in three-set sweeps.

Auburn Mountainview Lions

Coach: Nicole Claudon

How they qualified: Placed third at West Central/Southwest bi-district touranment

Last state appearance: 2011; did not place

Key players: OH Molly Chichosz, sr.; L Savanna Cappa, jr.; MH Maya Williamson, jr.

Notable: At 6-1 and 6-0, respectively, Chichosz and Williamson are the Lions’ top two kills leaders. The school opened in 2005, and the volleyball program has earned six consecutive state berths but has yet to bring home a trophy (4-12 all-time in state matches).

Bonney Lake Panthers

Coach: Shirley Baker

How they qualified: Placed second at West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament

Last state appearance: First appearance

Key players: OH Taylor Moss, sr.; S Ashtyn Bagby, jr.; L Dana Alderson, sr.

Notable: This is the Panthers’ first state appearance in the school’s seven-year history, and got they a big boost when they defeated Prairie, a former No. 1-ranked team, in five sets to advance to the district tournament last weekend. Their average height is 5-7.

North Thurston Rams

Coach: Micah McBride

How they qualified: Placed sixth at West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament

Last state appearance: 1995 (Class 4A); did not place

Key players: OH Brittany Rutherford, sr.; MH Jessica Malchow, sr.; S Megan Kramer, jr.

Notable: North Thurston snapped a 17-year state drought, but the Rams will have the shortest commute to this year’s tournament; North Thurston High School is 1.8 miles from Saint Martin’s. All of the Rams’ five-set matches have come against Lacey rival Timberline; the Rams were 1-3 in those matches.

LONGSHOTS

Glacier Peak Grizzlies

Coach: Chris Pratt

How they qualified: Place third at District 1 tournament

Last state appearance: 2011; did not place

Key players: OH Ruby Mensing, sr.; OH Maddi Ober, sr.; S McKenzie Wilkinson, jr.

Notable: The Grizzlies earned their second consecutive state berth by surviving two loser-out matches in the district tournament to defeat Everett in five sets for the second time in five days. Wilkinson had 50 assists and 24 digs in that match.

Lakeside (Seattle) Lions

Coach: Katie Wilson

How they qualified: Placed fifth at Sea-King District tournament

Last state appearance: 1986; did not place

Key players: S Devin Callahan, so.; OH/MH Jennie Glerum; OH Kaylee Best, sr.

Notable: It’s been 26 years since the last time Lakeside got a state berth, but the Lions got to Lacey by defeating Bainbridge, 3-0, in a winner-to-state, loser-out match after upsetting the Metro League champion earlier in the tournament. Its two third-place state trophies came in the 1970s.

Holy Names Academy Cougars

Coach: Brian Richards

How they qualified: Placed fourth at SeaKing district tournament

Last state appearance: 2010; did not place

Key players: MH Erica Ciez, sr.; OH Courtney Pharr, sr.; OH Kaki Hall, sr.

Notable: At one time this season, the Cougars were the top-ranked team in 3A. The team hit a rough patch, losing six out of seven matches. The Cougars got a state berth after defeating Bellevue and Lakeside.

Southridge Suns

Coach: John Lengphounpraseut

How they qualified: Placed second at East regional

Last state appearance: 2009 (Class 4A); did not place

Key players: OH Emma Spurlock, jr.; MH Kimberly Brinkworth, jr.; S Kylie Fraga, jr.

Notable: Teams might have trouble finding holes when hitting up against Brinkworth, who tallied 10 blocks in a three-set win over Kamiakin, the top seed from the Mid-Columbia Conference, to prevent the Braves from making state. This is the program’s third-ever state berth – all coming since 2006.

Stanwood Spartans

Coach: Erik Titus

How they qualified: Placed second at District 1 tournament

Last state appearance: 2005 (Class 4A); did not place

Key players: OH Natalia Sulantay, sr.; S Kaitlyn Noonchester, sr.; S Marissa Hansen, sr.

Notable: In the Spartans’ seven previous state appearances, the program’s only trophy came in 1992 (sixth place). Stanwood has a 5-19 mark in those seven state appearances.

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 mwochnick@theolympian.com www.theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick mwochnick@theolympian.com mwochnick@theolympian.com

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