SOUTH BEND — Seizing volleyball’s always-fickle momentum in the nick of time, South Bend clinched its 12th state berth since 1996 in memorable fashion.
Staving off match point in the third set, the Indians rallied past Wahkiakum, 23-25, 17-25, 26-24, 25-10, 15-13, in the quarterfinals of the District IV Class 2B Volleyball Tournament on Tuesday night at Koplitz Fieldhouse.
The Mules had previously kicked Raymond into the losers bracket of the double-elimination tournament, 20-25, 25-22, 25-21, 25-22, in the opening match of the district doubleheader.
The Indians (14-1) will face Mossyrock in a semifinal scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Adna. Pe Ell and Napavine will collide in the other semi at 7 p.m. Since the Southwest district is allotted six berths this year, all four semifinalists are assured of state appearances.
Raymond (7-9) will take on rival Willapa Valley in a loser-out contest at 5 p.m. Thursday at Napavine. The winner of that match must win once more Thursday to advance to state.
“Wow, that was tough,” Tribe coach Jackie Sanchez sighed following this thriller. If anything, she was understating.
Trailing 23-16, Wahkiakum rode the serving of Tori Wegdahl to reel off the final nine points of the opening set.
Wegdahl and Baylee Olsen then put on a hitting clinic in the second set while the Indians uncharacteristically struggled with their passing and attacks.
“We were really, really nervous before the game, which surprised me, because we have quite a bit of experience,” Sanchez reflected. “I think it particularly took away our ball control.”
For the third set, Sanchez shifted her daughter Emily to libero, a position she had not played previously. She also installed Kathryn Staats as an outside hitter and had outside hitter Maddie Klus help Myranda Curtis with the setting duties.
The Mules, however, continued to play well and served for the match at 24-23 following a Madison Laberge kill and a South Bend return error.
Kessa Wilson put away a Klus set to keep the match alive and return the serve to Katlyn Sawyer. After a Wahkiakum hitting error gave the Indians set point, Emily Sanchez put down a spike from the back row to prolong the contest.
Hitting much more effectively and with the momentum firmly on their side, the Indians never trailed in either of the final two sets. The last, however, was a struggle.
Emily Sanchez served the first three points to give South Bend a lead it never relinquished. The Mules twice closed to within a point, the last time at 14-13 following two Tribe errors.
Then Makenzie Russell, South Bend’s leading hitter with 15 kills, directed a Curtis set into the back right corner to touch off the victory celebration.
“Our experience helped bring us back,” Jackie Sanchez said. “We talked about playing with fire.”
It was the first time the Indians had clinched a state berth on their home court and Coach Sanchez commended an enthusiastic crowd for its support.
Emily Sanchez put all 26 of her serves into play, brought up 19 digs and only committed three errors on the night. Russell added 12 blocks, while Wilson finished with 10 kills and nine blocks and Sawyer eight kills. Staats contributed four kills in the final three sets.
A strong Raymond defensive performance against the more powerful Mules wasn’t quite enough.
It was in the first set, when the Gulls dug up numerous Wahkiakum spikes and capitalized on Mule serving errors.
Raymond erased an 18-14 deficit by tallying eight of the next nine points.
Courtney Hagain served four successive points to give the Gulls the lead. Shylo Boyes’ kill, Aiysha Garcia’s tip and a Wahkiakum hitting miscue produced the final three points.
The complexion of the contest changed late in the second set.
Up 15-10 moments earlier, the Gulls owned a 21-19 advantage on another Boyes kill.
Following a side-out, however, Wegdahl served the next four points and the Mules eventually won the set on an Hailey Quigley kill.
The Gulls even made things interesting during a fourth set in which they trailed 15-5. They closed the margin to two points on three occasions — the last at 24-22. Kaylee Bryant’s kill off a pass from Haylee Budd ended matters.
Bryant also provided the final point of the third set in unusual fashion.
Mistiming her leap, she whiffed with her right hand on an initial kill attempt, but tipped the ball with her left hand on the way down. The Gulls were unable to return the shot.
“We had some issues with serve-receive and that was the main thing,” Raymond coach Bob Swogger said. “All-around, the girls had the best game we’ve had all season.”
Senior floor leader Abby Maneman was cited by Swogger for overall play. The Raymond coach also commended his middle blockers, Kira Dunsmoor and Hannah Dykes.