LAKEWOOD - Sehome must not have cared too much about the overall wellbeing of its coach, Kristy White, since it had her stretching the limits of her white polo on the sideline as she watched her team fall behind set after set.
The Mariners fell down in each of its first two sets, but managed a way to beat Tumwater 25-23, 31-29, 26-28, 25-19 in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A State Volleyball Championships on Friday, Nov. 15, at Pierce College in Lakewood. With the four-set, grueling win, Sehome advances to play Capital in the semifinals at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16.
"We're bringing home a trophy," White said. "No matter what, that was our goal - we wanted to place at state. The worst we can get is fourth, and we met our expectations, so now we are going to go after the second-ranked team in the state, which is Capital."
After falling down 14-7 to Tumwater in the first set with an uncharacteristically high amount of errors, the Mariners reeled off 13 of the next 19 points to tie the opening set at 20-20. Leading that charge was senior libero Erika Smith, who contributed three blocks and two kills in the run.
After a kill gave Tumwater the lead, senior hitter Taylor Lyall dropped a soft floater over two blockers to bring the score back to 21-21. A Mariners service error again gave the Thunderbirds the lead, but a net fault and back-to-back kills by Smith gave Sehome the opening-set win.
"We battled through it," Lyall said. "We all pulled together and pushed through it."
The second set wouldn't lack any dramatics, either, as Sehome again found itself trailing 14-8 after a kill by Tumwater's Kylie Bishopp down the left baseline. A service error later in the match would find the Mariners in a 17-11 hole, but they would go on to win six of the next eight points to bring the match to within two, 19-17. After Tumwater's Cristina Hegarty powered a spike through two Sehome blockers to take the 20-17 lead, the Thunderbirds committed errors on four of the next five points, tying the match at 21-21.
Sehome, despite serving for the game three different times, finally cracked Tumwater's defensive front by batting down a wayward pass at the net for the set.
"We dug ourselves a hole in the second game, which we told ourselves we weren't going to do, and when are we going to stop making those mistakes at the beginning of the game?" White said. "As a coach, you are hoping they are going to turn on the switch and pull through."
Sehome initiated its offense much earlier in the third, taking a commanding 7-1 lead, but just as Tumwater did in the previous two sets, the Mariners let their lead get away from them, and fast.
The Thunderbirds rode two service errors, a double-hit and a few hitting errors to get within one, 11-10, although Smith provided two kills to and a block to give the Mariners some much-needed breathing room. Sehome's lead grew to 20-17 after back-to-back kills by Lyall, but net faults again plagued the Mariners and let the Thunderbirds bring the set to a tie, 21-21. A kill by Smith gave Sehome the lead, and junior hitter Dani Johnson provided two key tips late in the set, but Tumwater outlasted the Mariners to take the third set.
Sehome had no such drama in the fourth set, winning it 25-19.
"I felt like we were one step ahead of Tumwater the whole time," White said.
Smith finished the match with 18 kills and zero hitting errors, and Lyall added 16 kills, 11 digs and one ace.
The Mariners also won their opening-round match 25-18, 25-18, 25-14 against Yakima East Valley. It was the first time Sehome's volleyball program had ever won its first match at state.
As it was, though, Sehome struggled with opening-round jitters, falling behind 4-1 early in the first. The Mariners were able to come back and capture a 6-5 advantage following a kill by Johnson. Sehome never trailed again in the first set, with a kill by Lyall capping the game.
"I know if I'm feeling nervous as a coach, they have to be feeling nervous, and your body just does some funny things," White said. "I was really proud of them taking the first game, and they came out strong in each game."
The Mariners showed no signs of nerves entering the second set, as they jumped out to a 17-4 lead. East Valley managed to bring the set back to 20-14, at which point White felt the need to call a timeout, the same timeout she decided against calling three points earlier.
"I tell them I like to have them do it on their own, but sometimes the momentum gets going in volleyball, and so I figured I would stop them and see if that would help, and it did," White said.
That doesn't take away from the fact that the Red Devils were able to reel off two four-point runs and a three-point run during the middle part of the second set.
"That should have never happened," White said. "We were just making way too many mistakes. ... We would go in and feel like, 'Oh, I can afford this error.' And all of the sudden, they're only down three points."
Johnson, who had a team-high 12 kills, provided three kills over the final eight points to help secure the second set for Sehome.
Like the second, Sehome jumped out early on the Red Devils in the third, winning 13 of the first 19 points. The Mariners closed out the set winning the final four points, capped by a Megan Greer ace. Greer led Sehome with 27 assists, and Kendra Thomas had 21 digs.