Mt. Spokane made history Thursday night in a volleyball match that had everything expected of two Greater Spokane League heavyweights.
There were big plays on both sides from heroes veteran and novice. Both overcame the mistakes expected, the consequences of frazzled nerves in a match of import between league unbeatens.
And the drama played out in front of a huge, appreciative and noisy crowd.
In five games, all won on the north side of the court at Mead High School, the Wildcats (3-0), for the first time in history, defeated their rival (2-1), 19-25, 25-15, 18-25, 25-15 and ultimately 19-17 in the taut fifth and final game on junior Marissa Verduci’s decisive kill.
“It’s going to take a few hours to process this,” said a drained Mt. Spokane coach John Reid. “What happened was very exciting against the best program in the state.”
Middle blocker Verduci, in her first full year on varsity, had a huge impact on the outcome, helping settle Mt. Spokane in the second game after an error-filled first-game loss. Her work at the net helped contain the powerful Panthers’ attack and allow the visitors to regroup.
Back and forth the teams went in the din delivering heavyweight blows in shifting the momentum.
“The crowd was so loud I couldn’t even hear a thing,” Verduci said. “But we worked to jell and did.”
First it was the Panthers on the north side delivering the attack behind senior all-leaguer Kaely Kight and sophomore Paige Montgomery. Mt. Spokane hurt itself with three service errors and several other miscues.
Then it was time to get the coaches out of the way and let the kids play, Reid said.
“(Verduci) was showing this toughness in practice, a couple of kids were not on their normal game,” Reid said, and he put her on the court.
Then it was Mead’s turn to feel the pressure and the match was tied. They switched sides again and the momentum stayed put as Mead overpowered behind Kight, Montgomery and the Zalopany sisters, Hannah and Kuulei.
But Mt. Spokane rallied to tie again, as sophomore Kennadie Clute took command with back-row defense and offense at the net.
Reid wasn’t about to mess with success and after losing the coin toss in game five (Mead elected to serve), remained on the north side of the court.
“I’m not superstitious, but volleyball players are,” he said. “That’s why we stayed over there.”
Pressure affected both sides in the decisive game five. Mead jumped to a 7–3 lead, with every point but one the result of mistakes. Mt. Spokane would rallied to tie three times as senior Megan Nelson, who missed last year to injury, had a key block and kill.
The first Wildcats lead was 16-15 before Clute’s apparent winning back-row kill was overturned because her foot was ruled on the attack line.
Mead took advantage for a 17-16 lead, but powerful Annie Arnzen showed why she’s a returning All-GSL player with a critical kill to start a three-point run and end the losing string to Mead.
“That was a fantastic match,” Mead coach Judy Kight said. “I felt like we took a giant step forward. We fought like crazy for every point. I know (the Mead girls) are frustrated, but it was a terrific game.”
Elsewhere in the GSL, Central Valley (3-0) outlasted visiting district rival University (1-2) 24-26, 25-20, 20-25, 25-18, 15-13. Mikayla Ness had 10 kills and Kendra Wiley nine kills and Delany Fischer 23 digs for the Bears. Jordan Schmerer had a match-high 28 digs and MacKenzie Hamilton 21 kills for U-Hi. … Darby Santos and Kendall Vesneske had 16 kills and 18 assists apiece, and Vesneske added 13 digs and three blocks to lead Shadle Park (2-1), which rallied from a first-game loss to overcome visiting North Central (0-3) 26-28, 25-20, 25-21, 25-1. Sam Hill had 21 kills and three blocks for NC. … It only went three games, but just six points separated the schools as Gonzaga Prep’s seniors rallied the Bullpups (2-1) in a 25-23, 26-24, 25-23 win over visiting Lewis and Clark (0-3). Sydney Weber had 11 kills and two blocks and Kanani Cunneeley seven digs to lead G-Prep. Khou Moua had 15 digs for LC.