Prairie volleyball into state semifinals

Three other Clark County teams go 1-1 at 4A, 3A events

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

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LACEY — At times Friday, the only thing that could stop the Prairie High School volleyball team was the Prairie High School volleyball team.

The Falcons rolled to a 25-11, 25-20, 25-20 victory over Auburn Mountainview in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state tournament at St. Martin's University. And along the way they made very few mistakes — except when they were standing behind the service line.

"We knew we had to serve the ball aggressively to take them out of their system," coach Andrea Doerfler said.

Wild quarterfinal loss to Columbia River

Some facts and figures from North Thurston’s 28-26, 23-25, 25-22, 25-27, 15-8 win over Columbia River in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state volleyball tournament:

• Game 1 featured ties at 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, and 26.

• In Game 2, Columbia River trailed 17-9 before rallying behind the hitting of Evi Wilson and Trisha Johnson. A block by Morgan Bergerud and Kathrine Kofoed gave the Chieftains a 24-23 lead, and a North Thurston hitting error ended it.

• Game 3 included ties at 4, 6, 8, 12, 13, 15, 16, and 17.

• Columbia River trailed 19-14 in Game 4 before taking the lead with a 7-0 run. Johnson contributed five straight points: A block, kill, block, kill, and kill.

The Chieftains eventually built a 24-21 lead, only to have the Rams come back and tie it. Wilson’s kill finally ended Game 4 at 27-25.

• Game 5 was tied at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 before Columbia River finally ran out of gas.

— Greg Jayne

That led to five service errors in the first game alone. But, oh, the trade off was magnificent.

Prairie dominated the match with tough serves, strong passing, and physical play at the net, earning a spot in a semifinal match against Holy Names Academy of Seattle at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

That followed a five-set victory over top-ranked and previously unbeaten Mercer Island in Friday's morning round.

Four Clark County teams advanced to the quarterfinals of either the Class 3A or 4A tournament with victories early Friday. But Prairie was the only one of the four to add a second win to reach the semifinals.

In the 4A tournament, Camas lost in three games against Mead of Spokane, and Union fell in three games to Olympia, the defending state champion.

In the 3A tournament, Columbia River lost an epic five-game battle with North Thurston of Lacey, 28-26, 23-25, 25-22, 25-27, 15-8.

Prairie, meanwhile, put last week's 2-2 showing at the bi-district tournament behind it. That record included a loss to Auburn Mountainview.

"We knew we could beat them," Doerfler said. "Our serve receive was much better; we were aggressive at the net."

When it managed to put the ball in play, Prairie dominated the first game behind six kills from Karlee Lubenow. Carissa Campbell spearheaded the offense in the second game, and Lubenow led the way in Game 3 with nine kills.

"We definitely showed up and played our best volleyball," Campbell said. "But we can minimize the errors on our side, clean it up."

Lubenow said: "We'll get the kinks out. Come tomorrow we'll be a well-oiled machine."

In other action for Clark County teams:

• After dropping the first game of its early match against Monroe, Camas dominated the rest of the way for a 21-25, 25-10, 25-13, 25-14 victory. But Camas couldn't quite handle Mead, ranked No. 1 in Class 4A by The Seattle Times, in the quarterfinals.

"They executed in certain areas of their game and we did not," senior Brindl Langley said. "They're a really good team. If we had to lose to somebody, I'm glad it was them."

Camas moves into the fifth-place bracket for Saturday's play.

• Union defeated Skyline of Sammamish in three games to reach the final eight of the Class 4A tournament.

"Ball-control and quickness," coach Josh Kreunen said of his small-but-scrappy Titans. "At any level, whether it's middle school or the Olympics, the team that serves and passes the best will win."

After losing its late match against Olympia, Union also moves into the fifth-place bracket, where it will play league rival Camas at 11:45 a.m.

• Columbia River started the day with a five-set victory over Seattle Prep.

"We didn't play well and we still won," coach Maureen Melhart said. "That tells me we're a mentally tough team."

The Chieftains needed to be tough for their quarterfinal match against North Thurston, a five-game struggle that lasted 2 hours, 10 minutes, and saw the first four games decided by 2, 2, 3, and 2 points.

Even the fifth game, eventually won 15-8 by North Thurston, was 7-7 at one point.

"There were just so many swings, right and left," North Thurston coach Micah McBride said. "It comes down to a tip here or a defensive play there."