Spartans girls volleyball downs Wolves in four sets
October 29, 2013
By Neil Pierson
Skyline High volleyball coach Callie Wesson is confident in her team’s ability to have a successful postseason run after the Spartans surged to 10 wins in their first 12 matches.
Skyline’s only losses have been to a pair of state-title contenders – 4A KingCo Conference rival Newport and 3A powerhouse Mercer Island – and the Spartans continued their run of good form on their home court on Oct. 21, downing the Eastlake Wolves 3-1.
With the KingCo championship tournament beginning Nov. 2, Skyline has a chance to knock Newport from its perch, but Wesson isn’t concerned about the opposition.
“We always need to just keep worrying about us and not focusing on what they’re doing on the other side of the net,” she said. “If we can take care of us and meet our standards of our hitting-percentage goal and passing-percentage goal, we should be able to beat any team.”
The Spartans (10-2 overall, 7-1 conference) met those standards against Eastlake (7-5, 5-3). They took charge early and didn’t allow the Wolves to push the match to a fifth set, winning 25-19, 25-8, 20-25, 25-19.
Crystal Anderson was a key to Skyline’s performance. The senior outside hitter racked up a match-high 17 kills, including four in the fourth set to clinch the victory.
Anderson said it was important for the Spartans to refocus mentally after Eastlake won the third set, which may have been the result of Skyline’s lopsided win in the second set.
“I think we kind of stepped back the third game and thought we’d just win it,” Anderson said, “but the fourth game, we knew we had to put more effort in.”
“You win the second (set) 25-8, and you kind of play down a little bit,” Wesson added. “You can’t do that, especially with a team like (Eastlake). Obviously, they came back big and won the third game.”
Eastlake coach Janna Tonahill gathered her players together after falling behind 2-0 and implored them to play up to their usual standards. The Wolves weren’t able to avoid their third straight loss, but they salvaged some pride.
“They work hard in practice … and we wanted to show the team that we really are,” Tonahill said. “We wanted to show Eastlake. So that’s who showed up that third game – the team that we’ve been.”
In the third set, Eastlake scored seven of the first eight points and never trailed. Star hitters Jordan Dahl and Angela Pellicano got into a rhythm: Dahl had five of her 14 kills and Pellicano had four of her 11 kills to keep the match going.
Skyline trailed 20-11, but rallied to within 23-20 behind Katy Valencia’s serving. An Eastlake timeout helped stop the surge, and a thunderous block from Pellicano gave the Wolves the winning point.
Eastlake’s reserves were cheering throughout the third game, but it was an elusive task for the team to find consistently positive emotions, Tonahill said.
“We had energy when we had points; we didn’t have energy when (Skyline) went on the runs,” she said. “It was hard for us to get the momentum back.
“It’s a difference when everybody’s energy is up, and we’re working on playing motivated volleyball again,” she added. “It’s coming back. We hit a little rut in the season, but I think we’re on our way back up.”
Anderson said Skyline is using a 6-2 formation that maximizes offensive options while taking advantage of two strong setters. The final statistics showed a well-rounded team as Megan Wedeking had 23 assists, Valencia had 20, and Molly Mounsey collected 14 kills.
“The 6-2 is definitely helping, for there to be three hitters up front and for us to have a tall block on the right side,” Anderson said. “The setters are setting really well.”
Wesson said the Spartans have improved their chemistry over the course of the season, and that figures to be a strong suit as they head into the postseason.
“It’s starting to be that end of the season where we’re starting to peak, which is nice,” the coach said. “We’re kind of figuring out our lineups, who plays better next to who, what setter puts a better ball to which hitter.”
Skyline and Newport appear to be the favorites to win the KingCo tournament, and Anderson thinks the Spartans are a much better team than when the Knights beat them 3-0 on Sept. 23.
“Newport was our first (conference) game, and I think that was more like a learning experience of how to gel with each other,” Anderson said. “And now that we’re gelled, I feel like we can play really well and we know what we need to do in order to beat them.”