YAKIMA — Seeing is believing.
So when coach Michelle Mury wanted her Kelso High School volleyball players to believe they had the potential to reach the Class 3A state tournament, she ordered the brand of ball used at tourney time in the Yakima Valley SunDome so the Hilanders could practice with it and envision the goal.
“I told them they’ve got what it takes to get here,” Mury said. “They started believing, ‘This is real, we can do this.'”
The Hilanders pulled the stunner of the day Friday in the SunDome, 3A or 4A, with a 3-2 victory over third-ranked Eastside Catholic of Sammamish (25-18, 18-25, 25-20, 22-25, 15-13).
But they weren’t done yet.
Unranked Kelso (24-6), which didn’t even get a vote in the final state coaches’ poll, followed with a 3-1 victory over No. 8 Snohomish (26-28, 25-20, 25-20, 25-13) to move into the semifinals for the first time in school history.
“It’s amazing,” said Allie Gaston, the lone senior starter. “We’ve worked so hard to get to state and that’s been our goal all year. It feels so good.”
And despite the belief, Mury admits the 2-0 start in the tournament is a definite surprise.
“This is exceeding our expectations by far,” she said. “But we’re not done yet.”
Their role as giant killers gets the ultimate test Saturday as the play top-ranked Mount Spokane (27-2), the defending champion, at 1 p.m. No. 2 Capital of Olympia (24-4) faces No. 6 Roosevelt of Seattle (17-6) in the other semifinal with the championship match set for 7 p.m.
The Hilanders, who owe three of their losses to 4A teams, showed their resiliency against Snohomish. They started the first set in a 9-0 hole, built a 24-19 lead, and lost 28-26. No problem — they just swept the next three sets with Erin Tack delivering the decisive kill. She finished with eight, while Bella Hadaller hammered 19. Gaskin added 10 while Natalie Fraley chipped in seven.
Ashley Noah delivered 44 assists, while the defense was carried by Rielee Gourde (20 digs) and Analee Johnson (15, despite fighting the flu all day).
Mury has been key to this resurgent season. She originally was head coach for five years in the 1990s, stepping down after the 1997 season to raise a family, and returned this fall. Mury was a senior on the 1984 Kelso team that first qualified for the state tournament. The only other state appearance came in 2000, when the Hilanders finished eighth.
Camas alive in 4A
Skyview and Camas both landed tough draws in the 4A tournament.
Skyview opened with No. 1 Graham-Kapowsin of Graham and Camas got No. 2 Lake Stevens.
Both went down in straight sets.
Camas rebounded with a 3-0 victory over Wenatchee to keep its trophy hopes alive, while Skyview was eliminated 3-0 by Richland, which finished tied for fifth in the final coaches’ poll.
Camas coach Michelle Ford didn’t want to make excuses for the Papermakers’ lackluster performance against Lake Stevens (25-19, 25-9, 25-16) — but she had a good one. Just 30 minutes before leaving for Yakima Thursday, during an impromptu hit-around, junior setter Mackenzie Hancock suffered a concussion. She didn’t make the trip.
Hancock, who also plays outside hitter and is a two-time all-GSHL selection, was sorely missed, and it took the team a match to shake it off.
Ford said she made a few other adjustments after the opening match and told her players to go out and play the way they’d want to remember 20 years down the road.
“Go out there and give 100 percent, go out there and play with heart,” she said.
The Papermakers (17-7) did just that in sweeping Wenatchee (25-21, 27-25, 25-16). They play Mead of Spokane (22-9) at 11 a.m. with a trophy on the line. The loser is eliminated, while the winner plays for seventh place.
Skyview (20-8) was making its first state appearance since 2010, and the Storm showed some nerves early. The fact they lost to this same G-K team 3-0 one week earlier in the quarterfinals of the West Central/Southwest Bi-District tournament didn’t help.
G-K cruised in the opening two sets (25-14, 25-12), but Skyview had a temporary spark in the third. It was 13-13 before the Eagles slowly eased away. The Storm fought off four match points before finally falling, 25-22, then had a better overall showing against Richland (25-16, 25-21, 25-19).
“We competed,” said second-year coach Shelby Swanson, a 2014 Skyview grad who played four seasons and is just 23 years old.
Despite losing six seniors, she feels the Storm should be competitive again next season.
“These seniors have set the expectations,” she said.