River VB rolls into 3A state tourney

Volleyball highlights busy weekend of championship play for high schools

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

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After rolling to the championship in the bi-district volleyball tournament last week, Columbia River might not be able to sneak up on foes this weekend.

On the other hand, lying in the weeds is the Chieftains' style.

"We're not an intimidating-looking team, but when we step on the court we surprise some people," coach Maureen Melhart said. "Anybody who's ever seen us would probably describe us as scrappy and ruthless on defense."

That's the game plan Columbia River will employ when the Class 3A state tournament begins at St. Martin's University in Lacey.

The Chieftains, ranked sixth in Class 3A by The Seattle Times, face No. 4 Seattle Prep at 11:45 a.m. Friday in a first-round match at the 16-team tournament.

No. 9 Prairie, in the other half of the 3A bracket, faces top-ranked Mercer Island at 8 a.m. Friday.

"We know we have a tough match right off the bat," Falcons coach Andrea Doerfler said. "That was really motivating for us all week in practice. I think we thrive in those kind of matches."

Prairie also must contend with a wrist injury to Karlee Lubenow, which limited her in practice this week. Lubenow was the 3A Greater St. Helens League player of the year.

Columbia River (21-9) finished second to Prairie in the regular season and in the district tournament. But it all came together last week for the Chieftains, earning them a favorable seed for the state tournament.

"I think a sense of urgency kicked in for these guys," Melhart said. "A lot of my kids did a nice job not making a lot of errors."

In the 4A tournament, also at St. Martin's, Union faces Skyline of Sammamish at 3:15 p.m. Friday, and Camas plays Monroe, also at 3:15 p.m.

Camas, No. 4 in the Class 4A rankings, is led by outside hitter Brindl Langley, the GSHL player of the year, and all-league setter Abbie Younkin.

Union, ranked ninth, had all-league selections in middle blocker Vanessa Muckerheide and libero Maddy Savage.

The volleyball state tournaments are just part of a busy championship week for high school teams in the area. Other events on the schedule:

Swimming

Monica Bottelberghe of Columbia River and Julia Sanders of Hockinson lead local qualifiers for the girls state swimming meet Friday and Saturday at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.

In the Class 3A meet, Bottelberghe is seeded first in the 200 freestyle and third in the 100 freestyle. In the 2A meet, Sanders is seeded first in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly.

1A volleyball

King's Way meets Nooksack Valley at 8 a.m. Friday and Woodland plays Granger at 9:45 in the state tournament at the Yakima SunDome.

For King's Way, the trip marks a bit of redemption. The Knights qualified for the Class 1B state tournament last year but were disqualified before the tournament for playing too many matches during the season.

Soccer

Three Clark County teams remain in the girls soccer quarterfinals, and all three play at 1 p.m. Saturday: Mead at Camas in 4A, Columbia River at Meadowdale in 3A, and Hockinson at Squalicum in 2A.

Football

Five local football teams have reached the Round of 16 in the state playoffs: Camas, Union, Columbia River, Woodland, and La Center. Woodland plays Mount Baker at 7 p.m. Friday at Civic Stadium in Bellingham, while the other Clark County teams play Saturday.