YAKIMA – Deep in the fourth set of the Class 2A state volleyball championship match, Rylie Reeves chased after an errant ball 20 feet behind the end line.
She slid onto concrete and collided hard with the metal support underneath the Yakima Valley SunDome bleachers.
For more than a minute, the Columbia River senior sat on the court as a trainer and coaches checked on her.
Then Reeves, who has been battling a back injury all season, shook off the pain and helped her team win its first state volleyball championship in more than 20 years.
It was that type of grit that lifted Columbia River past 2A Greater St. Helens League rival Ridgefield 3-1 Saturday in the title match.
In the first and the fourth sets, River rallied late to snatch away sets that Ridgefield appeared to have in hand.
In the first set, the Rapids overcame a 23-20 deficit with five consecutive points.
Then, in the clinching fourth set, River rattled off six straight points after trailing 23-19.
Those rallies were born of a poise and maturity the Rapids have spent all season building. Since Sept. 21, when River was swept by Ridgefield for its only loss this season, the Rapids have only gotten better.
“When you get that big of a deficit, mentally that’s the hardest place to be,” River coach Breanne Smedley said. “I’m just so proud of how we took one point at a time. We have been preparing for these moments for months and months.”
Columbia River and Ridgefield had always been on a collision course for the state title.
Outside of the four matches against each other, neither team lost a set this year. Simply, no other team in 2A statewide was even close to Columbia River (22-1) and Ridgefield (20-3).
On Nov. 13, the teams played an epic five-setter in the District 4 championship with River prevailing 16-14 in the final set.
That same intensity was the undercurrent for Saturday’s title match. When a key point arrived, more often in was Columbia River that seized the chance.
“We came into this tournament with a goal in mind,” Reeves said. “When it was in our fingertips, we knew we had to give it everything.”
Reeves had a team-high 15 kills and several sprawling digs. Her bruise from the bleachers joins plenty of sore spots she and her teammates earned during the two-day tournament.
“Everybody’s beat up,” Reeves said. “We’ve had a tough go at this tournament. We’ve fought every game we’ve played. I just pushed that aside like everybody else and stuck it through.”
Ridgefield was led by as tough of a front line as any in the state. Six-foot-5 sophomore Elizabeth Andrew and 6-foot-1 senior Emily Vossenkuhl turned back several River attacks.
In the first set, Andrew had seven of her game-high 22 kills in helping the Spudders build leads of 17-11 and 23-20.
But River turned to its other powerful attacking option Lauren Dreves. The sophomore nailed three kills in a row to end the set.
River won the second set 25-16, led by a 15-4 run that saw the Rapids erase an early deficit.
Ridgefield wouldn’t give up, though. The Spudders showed a tenacity that befits the winners of the past two state championships in winning the third set. Paige Stepaniuk had seven kills as the Spudders won 25-20.
“I’m proud that we came together to make it this far,” Ridgefield’s Natalie Andrew said. “Overall, we had a great season. No matter the outcome, I’m proud of my team.”
The fourth set will be what this River team remembers when it thinks about the qualities that let it earn the championship. Alumni from the school’s two previous champions (2000 and 1996) told year’s team what it would take to join them on the gymnasium wall.
“They told us to appreciate it and give it everything we’ve got,” Reeves said. “We did that for them, for everybody back at school and for ourselves. I’m really proud of this.”
It wasn’t always easy. Senior setter Caroline Hansen said the team didn’t learn to play together until a midseason tournament in San Diego.
“We’ve grown tremendously,” Hansen said. “I remember we used to bicker all the time on the court. … We had a really rough patch, but that brought us closer. We learned what to do in hard situations, like that game.”
Camas takes home 4A hardware
Camas won two consolation matches, each in four sets, to place fifth in the Class 4A tournament.
The Papermakers (21-2) took home a trophy for the second consecutive state tournament after placing seventh in 2019. Fifth place ties the best finish since 2000.
“I’m so proud of this team,” senior Delaney Clark said. “It’s my favorite team I’ve ever been on. We’ve worked together so much this year. It has been amazing how much we’ve grown and bonded.”
No. 5 seed Camas topped No. 11 Mount Rainier of Des Moines in the fifth-place match. After dropping the second set, the Papermakers dominated the third and fourth to end their season on a strong note.
The set scores were 25-19, 15-25, 25-14 and 25-11.
Camas reached the fifth-place match by beating No. 8 Gonzaga Prep 3-1 earlier Saturday. After Gonzaga Prep rallied for a 25-21 win in the first set, Camas closed strong in each following set for wins of 25-20, 25-12 and 25-18.
Senior Emmy Hansen had 13 kills and 5-foot-11 freshman Kendall Mairs added 12 kills.
Clark, one of five seniors, said the Camas program is in good hands.
“They have big shoes to fill, but they can totally do it,” Clark said. “We have some amazing players and they’re going to be back here next year.”
CAMAS 3, GONZAGA PREP 1
21-25, 25-20, 25-12, 25-18
CAMAS 3, MOUNT RAINIER 1
25-19, 15-25, 25-14, 25-11
COLUMBIA RIVER 3, BURLINGTON-EDISON 0
25-15, 25-13, 25-16
RIDGEFIELD 3, STEILACOOM 0
25-19, 25-13, 25-12
COLUMBIA RIVER 3, RIDGEFIELD 1
25-23, 25-16, 20-25, 25-23