Sehome’s volleyball team knew it was the favorite heading into the Class 2A District Tournament on Wednesday, Nov. 5, at Squalicum High School. But nothing is guaranteed when it comes to the playoffs.
The Mariners shook off any doubters of their 14-0 regular season and secured their fourth consecutive state berth by beating Squalicum 25-16, 25-19, 25-20 — the Storm were later eliminated by Anacortes in a 3-1 loss — and then getting the better of Lakewood 25-13, 25-23, 25-16 in the district semifinals.
“It feels great,” Sehome coach Kristy White said. “Just as good as the first time.”
If there was any pressure on Sehome as the top seed and the only undefeated team in the district, it certainly didn’t show.
The Mariners got by Lakewood in the finals without really much of a scare, led by Dani Johnson and Emily Greer’s 20 kills apiece.
“We know where the target is and it’s right on our back,” White said. “They’ve done a really good job at holding their poise and really just worrying about our side of the net.”
They used a five-point run to make it 17-11 and didn’t look back.
The second set was headed for a similar result — the Mariners were up 20-13. A six-point run by Lakewood made it 21-20 and eventually the Cougars were able to even it at 23-all. The Mariners captured the last two points though and it set up a third set without worry.
“We need to not get so comfortable,” White said. “When we’re leading and then you see ‘Oh maybe we can try something new’ or whatever it might be. We really just need to stay error-free as much as possible.”
The opening to the third set was definitely without error for Sehome, as the Mariners pulled to a 9-0 lead and coasted to a 25-16 win.
The win allows the Mariners to not have to worry about needing a win Saturday and can go into the championship game just looking to improve.
“It’s huge,” White said. “If we bring the (district) trophy home, great. If not, our end goal is getting to state and peaking there.”
Against Squalicum, it was Sehome dominance early. The Mariners capitalized on several Storm errors to pull to a 17-10 lead and the eventual win.
“We can only control so much in volleyball and serving and keeping the ball in play are definitely a big piece,” Storm coach Laurie Quigley said after the first game. “If we do that, we’re a lot better than when we just give people free points on those balls.”
The second set was much more back and forth until the Mariners’ four-point run made it 18-13 and it was all Sehome from there.
The third set is where things got interesting for the No. 1-seed Mariners.
After pulling to a 6-2 lead, the Storm went on an 11-1 run to make it 13-7 and the Mariners looked like they were on the ropes.
“I think they played really hard the second and third game,” Quigley said. “We just had a couple things we need to get better at.”
But Sehome kept composed and showed why its undefeated, eventually retaking the lead with a six-point run to make it 22-18.
And while star outside hitter Johnson certainly played her role in the win – she had 14 kills and 18 digs, it was Katrina Dank that was a game changer in the middle.
Dank had two blocks and seven kills in the match.
“It was really exciting to get some blocks,” Dank said. “We got to work on some stuff we have been working on leading up to postseason like slides and extra cool hits.”
It’s definitely not an out of the blue development for the junior middle blocker.
White knows Dank has been steadily improving and just peaking at the right time.
“We’ve been really working with our middles,” White said. “For the last week, its really nice to see her come out with confidence and put the ball away.”
With the suddenly intimidating Dank in the middle to go along with Johnson, Greer and Kayla Thurman on the outside the Mariners have weapons anywhere on the court.
“It’s kind of nice for everyone knowing that we really don’t have a go-to hitter,” White said. “If we can have our middles active and have our outsides active, it makes a whole new dynamic.”
And for a team that’s undefeated still, that ought to be a scary thought for opponents.