The inaugural season of the Class 3A South Sound Conference saved its most dramatic volleyball for last.
Second-ranked Gig Harbor High School was pushed to five sets but defeated six-ranked Timberline, 25-11, 22-25, 25-18, 17-25, 15-13, to claim the 3A SSC tournament title at Capital High School and seal the league’s top seed in the upcoming District 3 tournament.
It was some late drama for the Tides, who rolled through the regular season unbeaten at 14-0 and lost four sets all season. And it looked as if Gig Harbor would continue that dominance, going up 14-1 in the first set.
The sixth-ranked Blazers had different ideas.
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“We told the girls they wouldn’t want to see what practice would look like on Monday if they didn’t start playing together,” Timberline coach Krista Manke said. “We just came off a great win over Capital (in the semifinals) and didn’t want to waste the momentum from that.”
The Blazers had a tougher path to the title game of the one-day tournament than top-seeded Gig Harbor. Seeded third, they swept Shelton, then knocked off Capital — a team they had lost to twice during the regular season.
“We stuck with it and stayed strong,” Manke said.
The Tides had only to win one earlier match, over Central Kitsap, to advance.
Once Timberline got back into its rhythm, the teams traded sets, with the Blazers winning the second and fourth.
“We were ready to play, the girls knew it was for the championship,” Gig Harbor coach Melissa Klein said of her team’s quick start. “Then Timberline started blocking real well and digging real well.”
The Blazers seemed primed for the upset in the decisive fifth set, going up by as much as 6-3, then taking advantage of Tides’ mistakes to grab a 12-11 edge that prompted Klein to call a timeout.
“All we told them is that we needed a side-out and they had to be mentally tough,” she said.
Gig Harbor junior hitter Lauren Hatfield, who finished with 12 kills, tied the score with a cross-court winner, but Timberline immediately retook the lead, 13-12, on a blast down the line on the left side by Kasey Louis. The Blazers wouldn’t score again, though, and Gig Harbor ended the match with another decisive Hatfield kill from the left side.
Two other Tides notched double figure kills as senior Selena Dutton led the way with 20 to go with 20 digs and six aces, while Hadassah Ward collected 13 kills. Paige Lawson set up Gig Harbor’s hitters with 56 assists and had 16 digs.
Louis, who fueled Timberline’s fourth-set win with her play at the net, tied for the Blazers’ lead with 12 kills and had a game-high seven blocks. New Mexico State-bound senior Julianna Salanoa also had 12 kills. Setter Natalie Stark had 31 assists and 11 digs and was 20 of 21 from the service line.
In addition to Gig Harbor claiming the SSC’s top seed to district and Timberline the second, Capital took the third seed with a win over Central Kitsap, which will get the fourth. North Thurston beat Shelton to decide the fifth and sixth seeds.
Graham-Kapowsin 3, Olympia 0: The Olympia Bears were shut out in their final match at the 4A South Puget Sound League tournament at Sumner High School. But, with consolation — they would have advanced to the 4A West Central District playoffs, which begin next week, either way.
Olympia beat Sumner, 3-1, earlier in the day to clinch a spot. It lost in the first round to eventual champion Bellarmine Prep, 3-0, on Thursday.