Road to state much shorter for area volleyball teams

Tourney in Lacey gives fans better chance to attend

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

It is roughly 220 miles from Prairie High School to the Toyota Center in Kennewick.

Or, to a high school student who just wants to support her friends on the volleyball court, about a world away.

It is 111 miles to St. Martin’s University in Lacey.

Less than two hours away to cheer on the Falcons.

The Class 3A state volleyball tournament is back on the west side of the state. Fans from Prairie as well as Camas will have an easier trek to follow their teams after years of matches in the Tri-Cities.

The 3A tournament begins Friday morning and will conclude Saturday night. The 4A tournament also will be at St. Martin’s, and the 2A tournament will be at The Evergreen State College in neighboring Olympia. No Clark County teams made it to the 4A or 2A tournaments.

“It will definitely be a different feel being closer to home,” Prairie coach Andrea Doerfler, who led the Falcons to the state tournament in 2009, as well.

The Falcons, who won this season’s Class 3A Greater St. Helens League title and district championship, have a pretty big following at their school. The team even had a rooter bus with close to 40 students last week for the bi-district tournament in Auburn — some 35 or 40 miles north of Lacey.

Camas is heading to state for the eighth consecutive year, including the last six in Kennewick. The tournament was in Everett in 2003 and 2004 and in Yakima in 2002.

It returns to Lacey for the first time since 2001, when Camas placed fifth. Columbia River beat Camas for the 3A state title at St. Martin’s in 2000.

The Papermakers, who defeated Prairie for the bi-district title last week after finishing second to the Falcons in league and district, say they are appreciative of being closer to home this year. That might not mean more fans, though.

“With the football team doing so well, we’re not going to get a lot of people,” Camas coach Julie Nidick said. “We’re kind of used to doing it on our own.”

The Camas football team will host a state playoff game Friday night.

“For all the success we’ve had, people in Camas still don’t know a lot about volleyball,” Nidick said with a laugh. “Maybe that’s my fault. Maybe I need to promote us more.”

Still, they won’t be alone up there. They might be tired — Camas plays its first match against Kennewick at 8 a.m. Friday — but they won’t be alone.

“We’ve got great parents,” Nidick said. “It’s wonderful to see a group of parents who are so united and behind us as a team. I gotta give the parents some props.”

Both teams have similar parental support. Doerfler said the home volleyball matches at Prairie are events. The parents have serving contests in between sets. The students are constantly cheering, always focused on what is happening on the court.

Those fans have only one team to root for now. The volleyball squad is the last team sport still playing this fall at Prairie. The booster club is helping with the cost of the rooter bus to Lacey this week.

Doerfler recalled maybe seven or eight students went to Kennewick to support the Falcons in 2009. She expects a lot more Friday and, hopefully, Saturday.

That is one of the main reasons the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association brought the tournaments back to this side of the state. Most of the allotments for 4A,3A, and 2A volleyball come from the west.

“We hope to bump up fan interest,” said Mike Colbrese, the WIAA executive director.

Another benefit to playing in Lacey is the opportunity for fans to make a last-minute decision to attend. The state semifinals are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The championship match is 8:15 p.m. Say Camas and/or Prairie advance, fans would know by 4 p.m. or so and be able to make it in time for the finals.

Nidick said she will reserve judgment of Lacey as a state tournament site until after she experiences it once.

But she already knows there is at least one advantage. No crossing over to that world away in the same state.

“I’m not packing my Parka this time,” Nidick said.