Prairie claims 3A state volleyball title

Falcons take care of business with strong hitting

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

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LACEY — Some successful volleyball teams treat the sport like a war of attrition, keeping the ball in play until the opponent makes a mistake or at least gets frustrated.

Prairie isn't one of those.

The Falcons prefer a Blitzkrieg, overwhelming foes with raw power and strength.

"We're very physical and we're very athletic," coach Andrea Doerfler said. "We like to terminate as soon as we can at the net."

Or, as senior outside hitter Karlee Lubenow said, "We don't really rally that much."

The ideology worked perfectly Saturday against North Thurston of Lacey, delivering a 25-20, 25-22, 25-16 victory that carried with it the Class 3A state championship.

Led by Lubenow's 13 kills, Prairie dominated the net in rolling to the title at St. Martin's University.

After a five-set victory over top-ranked and previously unbeaten Mercer Island on Friday morning in the Round of 16, the Falcons reeled off sweeps of Auburn Mountainview, Holy Names Academy of Seattle, and North Thurston of Lacey.

"It set the bar high for us," Doerfler said of the win over Mercer Island. "We knew if we could beat them, we could compete with anyone here."

They did that behind the 6-foot Lubenow, 5-11 Carissa Campbell, 5-11 Courtney Atkins, and 6-2 Kaitlyn Sitton. More important than their height, each of them is strong enough to power a shot through the block or tool it off the hands and out of bounds.

"It is very relaxing," Tori Porter said of being a setter with so many weapons at her disposal. "I can pretty much go to anybody and they can take care of the ball."

In addition to Lubenow's 13 kills, Sitton had eight, Atkins seven, and Campbell five. Kaylee Warren, a more conventional outside hitter at 5-foot-9, added seven kills for a very balanced offense.

"We have a huge, strong front line," Lubenow said. "We like to put the ball away."

Prairie started with that from the outset, recording 15 kills in the first game against North Thurston. While many points typically end with errors by the other team, the Falcons prefer to take matters into their own hands.

Lubenow had five kills in the first game as Prairie slowly pulled away down the stretch.

The second game looked much more dire for the Falcons as the Rams built a 22-21 lead. But a kill by Lubenow gave Prairie a sideout, and Campbell delivered three service aces to close out the game.

"I was very confident," said Campbell, who had five aces in the match. "I believe in my team."

The third game was all Prairie, as the Falcons built a 24-11 lead as watched a mini-rally by North Thurston before wrapping up the title.

For a school that is a perennial power and has won six state championships in girls basketball, the victory marked a second state volleyball crown. Prairie had won the title in 1998.

Now the 2012 team can be added to the honor roll.

"It's unbelievable," Lubenow said. "We've worked our whole lives for this."

Prairie's title was the highlight for four Clark County teams that qualified for the 3A or 4A tournaments at St. Martin's, but each of them were still playing Saturday.

Camas took fifth place in the 4A tourney, beating Puyallup 25-22, 25-21, 25-23 in its final match.

"My five seniors are amazing," coach Julie Nidick said. "Their leadership was invaluable. This team is a family -- 12 young ladies that would do anything for each other."

Camas reached the fifth/sixth-place match by beating Union in five games, ending the Titans' season. It was the fourth meeting of the year between the schools, and Camas won each of them.

Earlier Saturday, Columbia River lost to Glacier Peak in the fifth-place bracket. It was the Chieftains third five-game contest in three matches at the 3A tournament.

1A volleyball

King's Way Christian took home a fourth-place trophy from its first trip to the Class 1A state tournament in Yakima.

The Knights lost both matches Saturday, falling in the semifinals to Cascade of Leavenworth 25-20, 25-11, 25-14, then in the third-place match to Lakeside of Nine Mile Falls 25-15, 25-16, 25-22. Woodland fell in the consolation semifinals to Freeman 25-13, 25-27, 25-23, 25-22.