LAKEWOOD - Through two sets, all indications were that Squalicum was going to advance to the second round of the Class 2A State Volleyball Championships.
Three sets later, the Storm were walking off the court after losing to Spokane East Valley 19-25, 15-25, 25-13, 25-15, 15-8 on Friday, Nov. 15, in the first round of state at Pierce College in Lakewood.
"We knew everyone at state was going to be good," Squalicum coach Laurie Quigley said. "Yeah, it's disappointing, but I think they'll respond and come back better."
Squalicum began by winning 11 of the first 14 points in the first set against East Valley. The Knights managed to close it to 21-18, but the Storm won four of the next five points to win the opening set.
The second set opened with the two teams trading points back and forth until Squalicum was able to win seven consecutive points after being tied 6-6. The Storm would see its lead grow to 19-9 with several kills by senior hitter Meghan Lowry. Lowry would inevitably cap the set with a cross-court kill, giving the Storm a two-set advantage.
"I thought we served the ball really well, and that kept East Valley guessing," Quigley said. "We came out and swung hard in the first two games, but I then I think we kind of let off the gas pedal."
East Valley, facing elimination, won 17 of the first 23 points en route to a 25-13, third-set win. The Knights' senior hitter, Elisha Allred, had four kills and three blocks in the set.
"We let them get a lot of kills in the same area," Quigley said.
What looked to be a strong opening for Squalicum in the fourth set quickly dissipated. The Storm jumped out to a 9-5 lead after several Knights miscues. East Valley, though, won eight of the next nine points, taking a 13-10 lead. The Storm didn't have an answer for Allred or fellow Knights' outside hitter Jordan Phelan, as the two continually recorded kills through Storm blocks.
"When East Valley started swinging and getting balls in, we got nervous," Quigley said.
After the Storm brought the fourth set to 15-12, East Valley won 10 of the final 13 points for the win.
The deciding set started with East Valley taking an early 3-1 lead. Squalicum managed its way back following kills by Lowry and a service error by the Knights. But as was the problem in the third and fourth set, errors and timely kills by East Valley secured the Storm's loss.
Squalicum was able to put its first-match woes behind it, beating Port Angeles 20-25, 25-16, 25-16, 25-14, in the consolation quarterfinals to advance and face Yakima East Valley at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16.
The first set, though, bore a shocking resemblance to the Storm's previous match, as it saw a 17-13 lead disappear in a matter of a few points. The Rough Riders won the next four points to tie the set up at 17-17, and after the two teams traded points, Port Angeles won the final five to take the opening frame.
Squalicum had no such trouble - or problem - in the second, as it jumped out to a 14-8 lead, and Port Angeles never got within two points for the rest of the set. The third and fourth sets were taken in convincing fashion by a Storm team that didn't want to see its memorable season come to an end.
"On the last timeout that Laurie took on game point, she told us to close our eyes and visualize us extending our season the longest we could," said Squalicum senior libero Kayla Chang. "Then we just came out and won that point, and we are so excited we get to play tomorrow."
The day was rife with emotions for a team that boasts nine seniors who have given Squalicum not only its first ever win at state, but its first ever win at the district level, as well.
Keeping control of the emotions, Chang said, has been just as much a battle as the ones they have been having on the court.
"We're all laughing together, crying together, at the end we're all tearing up together because we're like a family," Chang said.