YAKIMA – The next great generation of La Center volleyball has arrived.
The Wildcats wrapped up their most successful state tournament in three decades on Saturday at the Yakima Valley SunDome.
La Center finished third, beating Meridian in four sets after falling to Freeman in the Class 1A semifinals earlier in the day.
The last time La Center fared so well was a three-year run from 1993-95 that saw the Wildcats place third, first and third.
La Center head coach Cymany O’Brien was on the 1993 squad. Many mothers of current Wildcats were on those teams as well.
“It’s so cool to think that the last time we got third place was when my mom was in high school,” junior Billie Ross said. “It’s so cool that all of our hard work paid off.”
Ross led La Center with 13 kills and four blocks in the third-place match. She’s part of a large junior class that aims to build off a 23-1 record similar to how this year’s team improved from an eighth-place finish at last year’s state tournament.
Lauren Hudson and Sofia Van Zant are the Wildcats’ lone seniors. Hudson is proud of the progress she has seen.
“I think we left something good,” Hudson said. “We instilled great leadership. We acted like big sisters to these younger girls. I can’t wait for Billie and the other juniors to take over next year. I think they’re going to go far.”
After dropping the first set 25-23 to Meridian (17-6), La Center rebounded to win the next two sets 25-14 and 25-19.
The Wildcats caught fire in the fourth set. Ross served for 16 consecutive points, a stretch that saw La Center go from 5-3 down to 19-5 ahead.
La Center wrapped up the fourth set 25-9 to spark a joyous on-court celebration. The Wildcats weren’t just relishing in the final match, but also a tournament that saw them beat previously unbeaten Cascade Christian in a grueling five-set test in Friday’s quarterfinals.
“Although we didn’t get first, we fought so hard,” Hudson said. “Everyone was giving every last bit of everything they had. That match yesterday took a lot out of us, but we left it all out on the court today.”
La Center’s semifinal match started promisingly as the Wildcats took the first set over Freeman 25-18.
But the Scotties front line began to assert its will in the second set both offensively and with its defense at the net. Freeman won the next three sets 25-16, 25-21 and 25-18 to book a place in the championship match.
La Center’s Trico League rival King’s Way Christian saw its tournament come to an end with a 3-0 loss to King’s in the seventh place semifinal.