LACEY – The Timberline Blazers’ dream of a deep state run might’ve been detailed after a first-round sweep of eventual state finalist Holy Names at this weekend’s Class 3A state volleyball tournament, but what’s been a season of firsts this season – its first undefeated regular-season and first district title – happened again Saturday night when the Blazers earned the program’s best state finish.
After a 3-1 (25-13, 16-26, 25-13, 27-25 win over Kennedy Catholic, the seventh-place trophy is the program’s second state trophy, joining the eighth-place trophy from 2011.
For the seniors – Riley Podowicz, Hunter Manke, Melissa Pittelkau and Kori Tucker – they exit their high school careers as two-time state trophy winners.
“If you would’ve told me four years ago that this is how it would end, I wouldn’t have believed it,” said Pittelkau, who finished with seven kills and seven digs. “I am so proud of how much we accomplished here as a team. We’re more than a team here. We’re family.”
Podowicz, who had 11 kills, five blocks and 24 digs, echoed a similar statement.
“Coming in as freshmen, we knew we had the chance to do something special here,” said Podowicz, who will play volleyball at Alaska-Fairbanks next year. “We just worked hard and improved every year because we wanted to leave our footprint on Timberline volleyball.”
The road to a state trophy wasn’t easy. After Friday’s loss to Holy Names, the Blazers defeated University in four sets, then Prairie in five in consecutive loser-out matches. And it looked like its trophy match with Kennedy was on its way to a fifth set, too. With Timberline leading two sets to none and holding a 17-9 fourth-set lead, Kennedy ran off 11 unanswered points and took a 20-17 lead following back-to-back kills by Apryll Eneliko.
But the Blazers were ready to end it in four. While they trailed 22-20 and 23-21, junior Molly Emmons, who finished with six kills and three blocks, came up clutch down the stretch. Her kill on the right side broke a 25-all tie, then she followed it up with a match-clinching kill.
The 21-1 overall record, including an 18-0 mark entering the state tournament, is also the best finish in school history.
“At 21-1,” Blazers coach Krista Manke said, “you have to feel good about that.”