Charles Wright records best finish but falls in championship game
Charles Wright Academy volleyball will return home to University Place with hardware and a place in program history.
Led by senior outside hitter Abbie Jackson, a Houston commit, the Tarriers (16-1) notched a runner-up finish in the Class 1A state tournament Saturday evening at the Yakima Valley SunDome.
Despite losing in straight sets to Lynden Christian (25-17, 25-11, 25-12) in the final, Charles Wright coach Mindy McGrath says reaching the title match is a landmark event for the program.
“It was just a great season, a great team effort and a fun tournament to go and play with the top 16 teams in the state,” she said. “It’s awesome to be a part of that.”
Before Saturday, the program’s best finish in the state playoffs is when the Tarriers took sixth four years ago.
“It’s just really awesome to see small schools (perform well),” said McGrath, who is in her 16th season at Charles Wright. “I think you always have ups and downs as far as athletes that stay and go, and always have the challenge of keeping kids here because we’re viewed as more of an academic school than an athletic one.
“It’s fun when a kid like Abbie, and our four other seniors, decide to stay and play for their school, and help build a reputation of being a volleyball school.”
Entering this weekend’s tournament in Yakima, Charles Wright hadn’t lost a match on its way to 1A Nisqually League and 1A West Central District titles.
The Tarriers posted 11 shutouts in the regular season, swept Seattle Christian and Bellevue Christian at districts, and had dropped just one set all season before Saturday.
In Yakima, Charles Wright blew by Naches Valley (25-18, 25-12, 25-16) in straight sets in its tournament opener on Friday evening, and did the same to Freeman (25-18, 25-20, 25-17) later that night.
“It was a late-night, tough game,” McGrath said. “Our girls played tough and smart, and made good choices when it counted.”
In the semifinals Saturday afternoon, the Tarriers battled back for a 3-2 win over King’s to make the championship match.
Charles Wright won the first set, 25-22, but dropped the next two (25-13, 25-21), suddenly staring down a possible loss that would have sent them to the third-place match.
But, the Tarriers rallied for a 26-24 win in the fourth set, and won the decisive fifth, 15-13, to set up the final match with Lynden Christian. Jackson had 30 kills in the semifinal.
“It came down to heart and guts, and we certianly wanted it,” McGrath said. “King’s is a historically great team, and they won the state tournament last year, and had seven girls returning.
“We knew it was going to be a tough fight. That kind of felt like our championship game. We always just keep reminding (the girls) that if they play their game, they’re unstoppable. All we can do is put our best foot forward.”
McGrath said the Tarriers came out too slow against Lynden Christian in the final, and couldn’t catch up, but the loss didn’t detract much from their historic run.
“They’re proud to bring home the second-place trophy to their school, certainly,” she said.
Class 2A was guaranteed to have a state volleyball champion other than Burlington-Edison or Tumwater for the first time since 2012.
After the first two sets of both semi-final matches at Marcus Pavilion on the Saint Martin’s University campus in Lacey, you’d never have guessed which school it would be.
Columbia River was ahead of Ridgefield 2-0 in one semifinal, Ellensburg led Lynden in the other by the same score.
But both the Spudders and Lions roared back to take 3-2 matches, with Ridgefield winning the later championship match, 3-1, to claim its first state title since hoisting the 1A trophy way back in 1990.
In the only trophy game involving South Sound teams, Fife swept White River, 3-0, to take seventh place to the Hornets eighth. Fife’s victory over White River was its third in a row over the Hornets, counting league play. It was never close as the Trojans rolled 25-15, 25-9, 25-15.
Tori Schmidtke led White River with nine kills and had five digs. Noelle Mills had 19 digs and Sarah Elmore 13 assists and three aces.
In its championship victory, Ridgefield was led by 6-foot-1 junior Delaney Nicoll’s 29 kills, 16 digs and two blocks. Libero Emilea Stepaniuk had 17 digs.
Ridgefield has been a regular visitor to Marcus Pavilion for the 2A tourney, but it took head coach Sabrina Dobbs nine years to finish first.
“I can’t even explain how exciting this is,” Dobbs said. “It’s so overwhelming and I’m so proud of my girls. After we won our River match, I think we knew that our mental toughness would help us win anything today.”
Kameryn Reynolds, a 6-2 middle blocker and the Spudders’ only senior, also felt the crown was a long time coming.
“Absolutely unreal,” said Reynolds, who had five kills and a block. “We’re mentally strong and so bonded this year. It got us all the way. I couldn’t thank my coaches and teammates more. We did this together.”