TACOMA — Continuing a theme of firsts for Timberline volleyball this week, the Blazers earned a No. 1 seed to the district tournament for the first time in program history.
Just five days after completing the first undefeated regular-season in school history, Timberline’s 25-15, 25-16, 25-12 dispatching of Shelton in the 3A Narrows League tournament title match Saturday at Mount Tahoma High School gave the Blazers that elusive No. 1 seed into next week’s West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament at Auburn Mountainview High School.
With that top seed comes a first-round bye, so Timberline’s first bidistrict match – at 6 p.m. Friday – is a winner-to-state contest as the Blazers seek their fifth consecutive state tournament appearance at nearby Saint Martin’s University.
“I think we’re in a really good place,” said Timberline senior libero Kori Tucker, who had 18 digs. “We feel really together as a team. Our highest goal is to win state, and that’s been our goal for years, and I think we have what it takes. Now, it feels like our time.”
The Blazers (15-0) topped the
Highclimbers for the third time this season – all of them three-set sweeps – getting all-around performances by Riley Podowicz (10 kills, two blocks, seven digs), Emily Tate (nine kills, five digs), Hunter Manke (34 assists) and Molly Emmons (seven kills, five blocks).
Emmons’ damage was mostly done in the second and third sets. Her kill at 12-9 in the second set started an 11-2 run.
Emmons also got the team’s final two points (block, kill) to put away the set. Timberline never trailed in the second set.
A similar run was made in the third set, which started with three lead changes. Shelton trailed 9-8 after Cherise Spears’ kill, but the Blazers went on a 10-1 run to grab a 19-10 lead.
Spears paced Shelton with six kills, and Kennedy O’Connor had five.
The Highclimbers (10-4), the No. 2 seed into districts, were one of the biggest surprises during the regular season, finishing tied for second in league with North Thurston at 9-3.
Shelton earned the No. 2 seed into the league tournament based on a tiebreaker over the Rams. The second-place finish was the highest for Shelton since the 2004 team finished third in the 4A Narrows Bridge Division.
During coach Steve Beck’s 25 years at Shelton, he said only “five or six” of his high school players had prior club volleyball experience.
Two-time first-team libero Natalie Andrewski, a senior for the Highclimbers, has the most club volleyball experience on this year’s team, but that’s just fine with Beck.
“We’ve gone to state before without any club kids,” he said. “We’re trying to get back to where we’ve been.”
The top four teams advance to the bidistrict tournament. North Thurston grabbed the No. 3 seed after downing Wilson in its loser-out match, then topping Mount Tahoma, 25-14, 25-13, 26-24, in the third/fourth-place seeding match.
Olympia gets third: The Bears took the third seed into next week’s 4A West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament at Kentwood High School after defeating Stadium, then Central Kitsap, 25-15, 25-13, 25-13, in the third/fourth-place seeding match.
Bellarmine Prep topped Gig Harbor, 25-21, 25-19, 25-13, in the tournament title match.
Rachel Kelson led the Bears with 12 kills and two blocks, and Hannah Adams had 10 kills and was 14 of 14 serving with two aces.
Middle hitter Hannah St. Jean had six blocks go to along with her six kills for Olympia.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/ south-sound-sports-blog @megwochnick