The King’s Way Christian and La Center volleyball teams were state-caliber teams last season.
The only problem was there would be no state tournaments in 2020-21.
And when the fall 2021 season started, the Class 1A state tournament might have felt like a far-off dream for both the Knights and Wildcats.
“At the start of September, we were on quarantine,” La Center coach Cymany O’Brien said. “It was 12 days before we could get our entire team together. The most we could get together was five players. And those first two, three weeks of the season are critical in trying to find your rhythm as a team.”
Over at King’s Way, the Knights were trying to replace five starters who graduated and do it with a new head coach, Olivia Alexander.
“We had a lot of room for growth,” Alexander said. “And we really relied on seniors. Bridget Young and Madeline Shrock have been great leaders for our younger players.”
Both programs finally had everything come together last week at the 1A district tournament. It just came together a little sooner for King’s Way.
The Knights scrapped out a five-set win over Montesano, then beat La Center for the first time this season in four sets to clinch a state berth.
“It was the first time we played to our full potential,” Alexander said. “Everyone played well. Nobody was off. We didn’t make mistakes and we really gelled together.”
For La Center, the loss to King’s Way helped flip the switch for the Wildcats.
“We finally found that rhythm on Saturday,” O’Brien said. “It took a while. We have a young team. We have four freshmen on the roster, and they are four freshmen who play.”
Now O’Brien is leaning on her seniors, who were freshmen themselves that last time the Wildcats went to state.
“They’ve been telling the other girls about the SunDome and what it’s all about,” O’Brien said. “And we plan to get there early and watch some 2B matches so the girls can get a sense of what the sounds are like.”
The Wildcats, led by seniors Amie Russell and Elizabeth LeBouef and juniors Ella Schoene and Alyse Webberley, are the No. 12 seed and will face Zillah at 5:15 p.m. Friday.
King’s Way Christian, led by seniors Shrock and Young and sophomore Natalie O’Neil, is the No. 15 seed and will face Chelan at 3:15 p.m.
Both Alexander and O’Brien feel as if their teams are peaking at the right moment, which will allow their teams to play above their seeds in Yakima.
“We placed seventh the last time we went to state (in 2019),” Alexander said. “And that’s our goal again, to earn a trophy.”
O’Brien said: “I’m going into this weekend optimistic. I feel like we match well with teams with our height.”
The Trico League’s other team, Castle Rock, is seeded third and will face No 14 Connell at 3:15 p.m. Friday. The Rockets are led by league player of the year Brooke Wirkkala and defensive player of the year Sunshine Watkins.