LACEY — Playing without fear took over for Casey Schoenlein.
At 6-foot-4, the Washington State-bound Schoenlein has rare size and power for an outside hitter and she needed to summon those skills with the Newport Knights trailing by two sets to Spokane’s Central Valley in Friday’s Class 4A state quarterfinal.
Determined to prolong “our year,” Schoenlein finished with a flourish, notching a match-high 21 kills, including three during a pivotal stretch in the fifth set for the Knights to pull away for a 17-25, 17-25, 25-19, 25-19, 15-10 win over Central Valley at the 4A state volleyball tournament at Saint Martin’s University’s Marcus Pavilion.
The Knights have risen farther than any program in the school’s history – the 4A state semifinals. It’s just another first in a season of firsts for the Knights.
“We’ve broken a lot of traditions this year,” Schoenlein said. “We won districts, we’ve never done that. We won our first game at state (since 2005) ... It’s kind of like, ‘This is our year.’” Next they’ll face Curtis, which topped Kentwood in a dominating 25-20, 25-23, 25-8 win with 14 kills apiece from Jessica Woodruff and Janell Sparks, in the 1:30 p.m. semifinal.
It was Woodruff’s big kill down the line in the second set that gave the Vikings momentum in the third set, holding the Conquerors to eight points.
It’s no surprise to first-year Curtis coach Michael Miller that his team reached the semifinals.
“At the beginning of the year,” Miller said, “I thought we were a top-4 team. It just took several weeks to come together as a team.”
For Newport, reaching the semis took a tougher road. The Knights rallied from a two-sets-to-none deficit and 18-14 in the third set. It got big plays out of Schoenlein, Anna Crabtree (19 kills, 18 digs) and Avie Niece (11 kills, three blocks) to get the final seven points, and also used a 7-2 run to close out the fourth set. Schoenlein had four kills in the decisive fifth set.
“If she didn’t do that,” Newport coach Steve Trachy said, “we wouldn’t be where we are.”
There were few uprisings on the other side of the 4A bracket. Defending state champion Bellarmine Prep cruised to three-set wins over Rogers (Puyallup) and Snohomish to reach the semifinals against Emerald Ridge, a 25-19, 25-18, 25-20 winner over Camas in its quarterfinal behind Jenna Mullen’s 19 kills and 10 digs and Jessica Davis’ 11 kills and two blocks. They’ll meet in the other 1:30 p.m. semifinal. By reaching the semifinals, it’s the Jaguars’ first top-4 trophy since placing third in 2005.
Despite falling to No. 1-ranked Southridge in the state quarterfinals Friday night, Oak Harbor was one of the biggest surprises of the 3A tournament on Day 1.
Two weeks ago, the Wildcats’ record was 3-10 and then won five of their next six matches. That winning stretch continued into its first-round, five-set thriller over Eastside Catholic after losing a two-sets-to-none advantage to win 27-25, 25-23, 14-25, 16-25, 15-10 behind 6-3 middle hitter Kayleigh Harper’s 25 kills and six blocks.
“We stepped up in our own way,” Harper said.
Before Friday, Oak Harbor had never won its first match at state in the program’s seven prior state appearances. Harper, a Western Washington commit, said her Wildcats are a different team than they were during the regular season. The Wildcats still can earn a state trophy; it needs a win over Shadle Park at 11:45 a.m. Saturday to play for fifth/sixth-place.
The Suns, who have been ranked No. 1 all season in the 3A statewide coaches poll, swept the Wildcats as well as Bishop Blanchet to reach Saturday’s 3:15 p.m. semifinal against Mercer Island, which topped Kennedy Catholic and Shadle Park in four sets. Holy Names is in the other 3:15 p.m. semifinal for the second straight year with sweeps over Timberline and Meadowdale and faces Columbia River, won both its matches in five sets, including outlasting Seattle Prep, 18-16, in the fifth set.
For the first time since 1980, Mead goes 0-2 at state with losses to Camas and Skyline in three sets in the 4A tournament. The tradition-rich Panthers have won five state titles and placed second last fall. … Defending 3A champion Prairie is working out of the consolation bracket after a 17-25, 27-25, 25-21, 23-25, 15-9 opening-round loss set to Seattle Prep. … Timberline, one of two 3A teams that entered the tournament undefeated, dropped its opening-round match, 25-23, 25-19, 25-18 to Holy Names. The Blazers played in front of a raucous hometown crowd; Saint Martin’s is located three miles from Timberline. The Blazers, paced by Riley Podowicz's 15 kills, rallied to knock off University in four sets late Friday night and faces Prairie at 9:45 a.m. Saturday at Saint Martin's in a consolation match.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/south-sound-sports-blog @megwochnick