LACEY – The North Thurston Rams were the underdogs all weekend, but they soon became a star attraction at the Class 3A state volleyball tournament.
Match after match led to win after win. They proved the doubters wrong and played their style of volleyball all weekend inside Saint Martin’s University’s Marcus Pavilion. All they wanted to do was keep on playing and not let their season end.
And despite a 3-0 (20-25, 22-25, 16-25) loss to Prairie in Saturday night’s Class 3A state title match, North Thurston (17-5) put on a show at the two-day state tournament, defeating Shorewood, Columbia River and Southridge on its way to the state title match and surpassing all expectations. The undersized Rams don’t feature a player taller than 5-foot-10 on the roster; they won with speed and defense.
With senior outside hitter Brittany Rutherford playing at less than 100 percent all weekend with a sprained ankle, multiple players came up clutch, including fellow senior Jessica Malchow. In the three-set semifinal win over Southridge earlier in the day, she tallied her second straight match of 17 kills. She finished with seven in the title match.
Up against a Prairie team that features four players 5-foot-11 or taller, North Thurston kept toe-to-toe during the first two sets, getting five kills in each set from Rutherford. In fact, North Thurston had a 22-21 lead late in the second set, but the Falcons scored four straight points, including on three straight aces by Carissa Campbell that gave the Falcons a 2-0 set lead in the match. And in the third set, it continued as the Falcons, utilizing their size at the net, raced out to leads of 7-2, 11-5 and 21-10 before the Rams began a comeback. Madison Krueger’s kill started a mini 4-1 run before Prairie put the match away on a set point.
The second-place finish is the best in school history for North Thurston. In four previous state appearances, the Rams had one state trophy – eighth-place hardware from the 1993 state tournament. The Rams had 12 postseason appearances in coach Micah McBride’s 13-year tenure, but had never reached state until now.
After each match, McBride continued to be amazed at what his team accomplished.
“These kids believed that they can win,” McBride said, “They believe in each other. We started practice 78 days ago and talked about goals and for 78 days, we’ve been a family. ... Not many kids get the opportunity to do something special and be apart of it.”
The run at the state tournament almost didn’t happen. At the West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament last weekend, the Rams trailed Enumclaw, 14-12, in the fifth set of their winner-to-state, loser-out match and facing match point. North Thurston, located just a mile-and-a-half from the Saint Martin’s campus, made the most of playing in front of a boisterous hometown crowd all weekend.
Southridge, 3, Holy Names 1: The Suns from Kennewick battled back after their semifinal loss to North Thurston by topping the Cougars, 25-19, 25-16, 26-28, 25-11 to earn the program’s first state trophy.
Auburn Mountainview 3, Glacier Peak 1: Led by Molly Cichosz and Maya Williamson, the Lions earned their first state trophy in program history after a 25-18, 25-22, 21-25, 25-21 win over the Grizzlies. Glacier Peak opened in 2008.
Mercer Island 3, Seattle Prep 0: The Islanders battled back from an opening-round, five-set loss to Prairie to win three straight matches and top the Panthers 25-14, 25-21, 25-23, to earn their first state trophy since 2008.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com www.theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick