YAKIMA – The Camas volleyball team huddled with the sixth-place trophy, then jumped in unison and sang the school’s fight song.
It was a celebration made more joyous by the realization that, just hours earlier, it looked like the Papermakers were going home from the Class 4A state tournament empty-handed.
Not 12 hours after having their championship hopes dashed by Lake Stevens in the quarterfinals, Camas was back in the Yakima Valley SunDome for an 8 a.m. loser-out match Saturday.
After two sets, it looked like No. 2 seed Camas wouldn’t make the trophy round. No. 6 seed Curtis won the first set 25-23 before pushing the Papermakers to the brink by winning the second set 25-20.
That’s when Camas tapped the drive and talent that saw it enter the tournament with a 19-1 record. The Papermakers claimed the next two sets before winning the fifth-set tiebreaker 15-12.
Though Camas later lost the fifth-place match to Puyallup in four sets, the Papermakers headed home with a polar-opposite feeling than if their season had ended one match earlier.
“We’re so proud of how we played,” senior libero Halle Reiter said. “We put in so much work over this whole season. We’ve been up early. We’ve been in the gym late. Our team, I know we deserve this. We did so much to get here.”
Reiter is among seven seniors who have kept the standards at Camas among the state’s best. Saturday’s sixth place trophy is the third the Papermakers have earned in the past four state tournaments.
“Our goal was obviously to place higher and go further,” senior middle blocker Avery Walunas said. “But we had a new goal starting today, which was fifth. We didn’t quite make that. But I’m really glad we can take something home and that we had a lot of fun.”
After looking flat in the first two sets against Curtis, Camas came out with a do-or-die energy in the third set, bolting to a 8-1 lead. But Curtis made it tight and staved off four match points before the Papermakers took the third set 25-23.
Kendall Mairs had a big sequence in a back-and-forth fourth set. The Camas junior had three kills in quick succession to open a 21-19 lead before the Papermakers eventually won 25-22.
After Curtis opened a 9-6 lead in the fifth set, Camas rattled off four points in a row. A Walunas stuff block put the Papermakers ahead 12-10, setting the stage for Camas to close out the set 15-12.
Reiter, who has committed to play at Santa Clara, said the team’s strong bond was vital to lifting each other out of a two-set hole.
“I think we realized that this is our last time playing with this group of girls,” Reiter said. “We didn’t want that third set to be the last time we ever played together. We realized, hey, if we want to keep playing together and making memories with this group we’ve got to push through it, which we did.”
Like Camas, Puyallup has a rich history at the state tournament including a third-place finish last year. The Vikings overcame a 17-8 deficit to win the first set 25-23, then took the second set 25-22 by winning the final four points.
Camas won the third set 25-18 but Puyallup, the tournament’s No. 7 seed, held a steady lead through the fourth set before winning 25-16.