YAKIMA – Prairie returned to the Class 3A state volleyball tournament on Thursday.
Though the Falcons stay lasted just one day, they hope the trip marks a return to what was their regular roost among the state’s best teams.
Thursday marked Prairie’s first trip to the state tournament since it finished sixth in 2018. That ended a run of eight straight state berths, which included a state championship in 2012.
A 3-0 loss to No. 5-seed Bellevue and a 3-1 loss to No. 13 Seattle Prep eliminated No. 12 Prairie. But an undefeated 3A Greater St. Helens League season, a trip to the bi-district semifinals and the state-tournament experience at the Yakima Valley SunDome has the Falcons believing they laid the foundation to be a top-level team.
“I hope it makes them want to get more hungry,” Prairie coach Jen Palmer said. “Just seeing that higher level of play, that faster, quicker volleyball. I hope it makes them want to get after it.”
Getting after it was something Prairie’s seniors did all season, Palmer said. That includes 3A GSHL player of the year Ella Conklin, who made her first trip to state after four years on varsity.
“I think our seniors did an incredible job leading this team with their character, in the classroom and their offseason work,” Palmer said. “That side of it was huge for us. So I hope our younger kids are ready to step up, be a good example and lead the program like they did.”
Prairie’s tournament started with a 3-0 loss to No. 5 seed Bellevue earlier Thursday. After dropping the first two sets 25-16 and 25-14, the Falcons put up a fight in the third set before falling 26-24.
In the evening’s loser-out match against Seattle Prep, Prairie started hot and won the first set 25-20. But the Panthers responded by taking the next two sets 25-18 and 25-19.
In a fourth set that was close throughout, Seattle Prep won crucial points down the stretch and took the clinching set 25-23.
Though tears were shed and hugs shared after the final point, Palmer said this year’s team will have plenty of good memories when they look back on the season.
“From start to finish, zero drama,” Palmer said. “Just kids who showed up wanting to put in the work and had fun. They’re classy. They’re hard working. They’re just incredible kids.”
Kelso, the 3A GSHL’s other entrant, is also still alive after winning two loser-out matches. The No.15-seed Lassies started with a 3-1 win over No. 18 Monroe in a loser-out match.
After falling to No. 2 Mead 3-0, Kelso knocked off No. 7 Gig Harbor 3-0 to stay in the running for seventh place.