Much has changed since the last WIAA state volleyball tournament.
What remains the same, however, is the presence of the 2A Greater St. Helens League’s top two teams.
Ridgefield and Columbia River have their sights on a state title when the Class 2A state tournament begins Friday in Yakima.
At the most recent state tournament in November 2019, Ridgefield lifted the championship trophy for the second consecutive season. Columbia River placed seventh.
This year, Columbia River (19-1) enters as the 16-team tournament’s top seed after beating No. 3-seed Ridgefield (17-2) in an intense five-set district championship match last Saturday in Tumwater.
Caroline Hansen, Columbia River’s senior setter and vocal leader, said having Ridgefield as a league and district rival has required the Rapids to raise their standards.
“It makes our team 100 percent better,” Hansen said. “They also have a really good team, so they challenge us to the best of our ability. That gets us ready for state. It’s honestly the best game we have.”
River hasn’t lost since its first of three matches against Ridgefield on Sept. 21. Since then, a team that graduated seven seniors and three first-team all-leaguers has only improved.
“We’ve rebuilt our entire team,” Hansen said. “We lost so many seniors last year, so this is a really big milestone for us.”
Ridgefield also had to reload after last spring’s COVID-shortened season. The Spudders had to replace five seniors, four of whom were all-leaguers.
“It has been a big challenge all season because we have a lot of new people,” Ridgefield senior Emily Vossenkuhl said after the Spudders clinched a state berth with a semifinal win Saturday. “But it has been really fun to rebuild that connection and work hard each practice to make it this far.”
Both Ridgefield and Columbia River will face early challenges in Yakima, and that has nothing to do with their first-round opponents.
Ridgefield plays its first-round match against Sequim at 7 a.m. on Friday. Columbia River follows at 8:45 a.m. against Mark Morris.
The WIAA is staging the 2A, 3A and 4A tournaments Thursday through Saturday on five courts at the Yakima Valley SunDome. That comes after the WIAA cited “unresolved contractual language” regarding liability as responsible for the 2A tournament not being held at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey.
That has resulted in a schedule that has Friday’s 2A matches starting as early as 7 a.m. and 4A matches starting as late as 8:45 p.m. It’s common for night matches at the state tournament to start later than scheduled.
Camas looks to keep rolling at 4A
After losing its first-round match in five sets at the District 3-4 tournament, Camas won three straight to place fifth and qualify for the 4A state tournament.
The No. 5-seeded Papermakers (18-1) open against North Creek of Bothell at 10:45 a.m. Friday.
Led by 4A GSHL co-MVP Emmy Hansen, Camas went undefeated in in the regular season and were only pushed past three sets three times.
Kelso set for 3A tournament
Kelso (13-5) narrowly avoided the play-in round of the 20-team 3A state tournament, earning the last of 12 seeds to get passage into the first round. The Hilanders open against No. 5-seeded Mount Spokane at 11:45 a.m. on Thursday.
Led by league MVP Bella Hadaller, Kelso went undefeated in the 3A GSHL and took 4A GSHL champ Camas to five sets on Oct. 5.