RIDGEFIELD — For the Ridgefield Spudders, the defending Class 2A volleyball state champions, they believe every match is as important as the next one.
No matter the opponent — a league foe or not — it all remains the same. No match no more special than another.
Yet Tuesday’s 2A Greater St. Helens League match between the Spudders and Columbia River might’ve had a playoff taste to it — and given the teams’ recent history, deservingly so — and it went in the Spudders’ favor.
Ridgefield’s convincing three-set win (25-12, 25-16, 25-17) win over the Chieftains at Ridgefield High School keeps the Spudders unbeaten at 8-0. River drops to 6-2.
Idaho-bound Delaney Nicoll had a match-best 16 kills and nine digs, 6-foot-4 middle hitter Allie Andrew added 10 kills and six blocks, setters Kohana Fukuchi and Morgan Harter combine for 41 assists, and libero Emily Stepaniuk had 26 digs for Ridgefield.
Last season’s run of big matches — and results — helped fuel Tuesday match between the league’s only undefeated teams. The two teams played five sets in three of their four meetings in 2018, including twice in the postseason. At state, Ridgefield rallied to down River in five sets on its way to winning its first state title since 1990.
The two teams bring out the best in one another, said Stepaniuk.
“We want to work hard,” the junior said, “and (have that) high competition and fun game. It brings that out in both teams.”
Tuesday, it was all Ridgefield from the start by playing a near-flawless match that featured few errors and tremendous defense to keep rallies alive.
Key runs in the second and third sets, behind strong defensive play and big play at the net from Nicoll, Andrew, Emily Vossenkuhl (five kills, four blocks), and Emily Borgstedt. Ridgefield had leads of 12-11 in the second set and 14-13 in the third before putting each set away for good convincingly.
A lot impressed Andrew on Tuesday’s match.
“Our hearts were in this game,” she said. “… Everything was on point from our passers, setters, everyone played phenomenal.”
The Spudders haven’t dropped a set since a five-set season-opening win over 4A Skyview in early September. Head coach Sabrina Dobbs believes that mindset of focusing efforts on their side of the net — and facing an otherwise faceless opponent — can help alleviate any pressure of being a defending state champion.
River coach Breanne Smedley said while her team playing at 100 percent, it could be the start of the same script as 2019 when River lost to three sets only to come back and take the Spudders to five in their second go-around in league.
River handed Ridgefield its only loss in 2018.
Rylie Reeves led the Chieftains with five kills and 11 digs and Emma Adams had 23 digs.