LAKEWOOD – The competition was different, but the result was the same.
A year after winning the Class 3A state volleyball championship, West Valley of Yakima rolled to a 3-1 win (23-25, 25-18, 22-25, 25-18) over Tumwater to take home the 2A title on Saturday night at Pierce College in Lakewood.
Despite dropping to a lower classification this year, Rams coach Katie Hinckley said they didn’t expect to face anything but the toughest teams in the state.
“Going down to 2A doesn’t mean it’s going to be easier,” she said. “Tumwater is one of the best teams we have played. It’s an amazing feeling because that’s a very good team we beat.”
Senior offensive hitter Ally Moore felt similarly.
“There are good teams everywhere,” she said. “We just drove hard. We knew they had big blocks, so we just kind of outsmarted them.”
West Valley came into the final having beat rival Selah, 3-1 (25-22, 25-21, 26-28, 25-12) in the semifinals. The Vikings had beaten them in the district championship match, so the win provided some momentum.
“I was actually worried they’d be done, like, ‘Oh yeah, we beat Selah,’ so I had to rile them back up,” Hinckley said.
Defensively strong, West Valley jumped out to an early lead in the first game, capitalizing on Tumwater’s mistakes.
While the Thunderbirds rallied in the second game and went on a late run in the fourth game to bring the game to 23-18, they were unable to block the Rams’ crushing hits.
“They were pretty flawless when it came to their serves,” said Tumwater coach Tana Otton, whose team rallied to beat Colville, 3-2 (25-17, 17-25, 25-23, 23-25, 15-10) earlier in the day.
“They had like, three hitting errors, and we couldn’t block them.”
Moore finished with 12 kills and 21 digs, senior setter Julia Nathe had 44 assists and 15 digs, and senior libero Carly Riehl added 24 digs. Tumwater was led by senior offensive hitter Karlee Sampson, who tallied a match-high 24 kills, 14 digs and an ace, and senior offensive hitter Courtney Bowen, with 48 assists.
Otton said that it was hard to see her players go home once again as runners-up. Last year, they fell to Burlington-Edison in the championship match.
“The hardest part is knowing how much they wanted it, and how hard they worked,” she said. “But I’m so proud of them. They played hard.”
Sampson said that being in the championship proved that the Thunderbirds were just as worthy of the title.
“They’re a really good team, and we are, too,” she said, wiping away tears. “If we had played them 10 times, who knows what would have happened.”
For the second consecutive year, Selah finished third in the state, after beating Colville in four (25-22, 25-19, 18-25, 25-22).
Vikings coach Kay Aberle said she wasn’t sure how her team would play in its final game after losing to West Valley earlier in the day.
“I thought they were going to be disappointed, but they really stepped up and got it done,” she said. “I’m very proud of them.”
Offensive hitter Kailee Wood, one of three seniors, said Selah has had trouble closing out opponents all season long.
“From (points) 10 to 18, we fight our hearts out, and then those last points, we struggle with,” she said.