Skyline rallies for seventh at state

November 19, 2013

By Neil Pierson

Neither team could have been entirely comfortable with the 9:45 a.m. start time at the Class 4A state volleyball tournament, but it wasn’t the early start that got the Skyline Spartans in trouble.

By Greg Farrar Hanna Erdahl (6), Skyline High School junior outside hitter, and senior middle blocker Molly Mounsey (9) try to defend a hit by Emerald Ridge 6-foot, 1-inch junior outside hitter Jenna Mullen in the first set of their Nov. 15 state 4A tournament match. After the loss, Skyline persevered with three wins to take seventh in state while the Jaguars claimed third.

By Greg Farrar
Hanna Erdahl (6), Skyline High School junior outside hitter, and senior middle blocker Molly Mounsey (9) try to defend a hit by Emerald Ridge 6-foot, 1-inch junior outside hitter Jenna Mullen in the first set of their Nov. 15 state 4A tournament match. After the loss, Skyline persevered with three wins to take seventh in state while the Jaguars claimed third.

A veteran Skyline squad appeared jittery and unfocused when they opened the tourney Nov. 15 against the Emerald Ridge Jaguars. A slow start doomed the Spartans as they dropped a 25-11, 26-24, 25-20 decision in the opening match at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey.

However, the Spartans (20-5) didn’t allow a slow start to wreck their dreams. They were determined to win their second state trophy in three years, and accomplished it with three consecutive wins to end the tourney.

Skyline swept Mead (25-22, 25-14, 26-24) to make it to the second day of the event. The Spartans knocked off Rogers of Puyallup (25-21, 25-14, 21-25, 25-22) and moved into the trophy round, where they swept KingCo Conference rival Bothell to win the seventh-place trophy.

The 25-16, 25-14, 25-20 demolition of Bothell included a balanced attack as Crystal Anderson, Chloe Epker and Katy Mounsey combined for 31 kills. Meghan Wedeking and Katy Valencia dished out 33 assists.

Against Emerald Ridge, the first set was an ugly one for Skyline, and saw the Jaguars serve eight aces and dominate at the net. Emerald Ridge students packed both ends of the court and were noisy throughout the match, and that may have had its intended effect upon the Spartans.

“I think it was just nerves and kind of being in a loud environment,” Skyline head coach Callie Wesson said. “We’ve never played in anything quite this bad. They had their fans — they had a lot of them — and I think we just took a while to kind of get into our flow.”

Skyline settled down after the first set. Wedeking and Valencia, who have split setting duties all season, began making crisper passes, and Anderson, the team’s star outside hitter, heated up by slamming several kills into the floor.

Molly Gallaher’s kill gave the Spartans an 18-11 lead, and they seemed poised to even the match.

But the Jaguars (26-4) came roaring back behind Jenna Mullen, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter who has given an oral commitment to play for Portland State University.

Mullen had four kills down the stretch in the second set, including a spike that broke a 24-24 tie and set up teammate Makenna Smith for a set-clinching ace.

Wesson was clearly disappointed in how momentum shifted at that point.

“It’s just missed opportunities,” she said. “If we can’t capitalize against these good teams, then we’re not going to go very far.”

Down 2-0, the Spartans started well again in the third set. Molly Mounsey’s kill gave the Spartans a 14-10 lead, but the Jaguars scored 13 of the next 15 points and never looked back.

Mullen dominated to close out the match, recording five of her match-high 18 kills in the third set. Anderson led Skyline with 15 kills and nine digs, while Molly Mounsey collected four blocks. However, the Spartans didn’t produce consistent offense, and Valencia and Wedeking combined for only 22 assists.

Wesson said she was surprised her players seemed off-kilter because of the loud, pressure-packed environment. Eleven of the 14 players are juniors or seniors.

“A lot of these girls have been two or three years at state … and so they should know what to expect and kind of know what to do, and it’s just kind of a bummer that we couldn’t pull it out,” the coach said.

The Spartans had a significant amount of rest coming into state, getting eight days off after falling to Newport in the KingCo Conference title game. And, the Spartans nearly beat the Knights, grabbing a 2-0 lead they couldn’t hold on to.

“We definitely wanted that one bad, but it was just another learning experience and another opportunity to get better,” Wesson said.

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