Charles Wright records best fin­ish but falls in cham­pi­onship game

The News Tribune - - Sports - BY LAU­REN SMITH AND DAVE WEBER lsmith@the­new­stri­bune.com Con­tribut­ing writer

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

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.”

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