There are technically no guarantees in sports – and you’ll never hear Mead coach Judy Kight speaking in such terms – but this seemed like a gimme, long before Tuesday night.
That’s not an insult to the University Titans, or any other volleyball team in the Greater Spokane League – it’s a nod to the Panthers, who, in sweeping the host Titans, captured their 10th league title in 23 successful years under Kight.
With 11 on her roster, it’s no surprise that seniors led the way for Kight and the Panthers in their 25-16, 25-11, 25-14 win over the Titans (6-2 GSL), who are now in a three-way tie with Central Valley and Mt. Spokane for second place – though Mt. Spokane and U-Hi are both 3A teams and the Titans defeated the Wildcats in regular-season play.
The regular season will wrap up on Thursday, but after Tuesday’s matches the Panthers will definitely be the top seed in the district 8 4A tournament.
“I’m so proud of my girls and what they’ve accomplished this season and the past four years,” said Kight. “Not only that, but to accomplish what they did tonight. They just swept a really good U-Hi team. This was never in the bag for us. We’re vulnerable just like any other team.”
Maybe not like any team.
Not many players can serve like 5-foot-8, WSU-bound outside hitter Taylor Ellingsen, who doesn’t look especially powerful until you see her jump serve and hit. She finished with four aces on Tuesday, along with Mead setter Jonni Dorr (who had 35 assists) and libero Morgan Douglass.
Maddy Underwood and Dana Norris finished with nine kills apiece for the Panthers, and Hannah Zalopany – often the team’s leader in kills – led Mead with three blocks.
“It was a really good effort,” Kight said. “They knew how they wanted to play tonight and they made it happen.”
Kayleigh Valley led the Titans with five kills and six digs on senior night for University. Valley, Hailey Nikkola, Sydney Rassier, Paige Thornton and Ashley Portch were honored in a pre-game ceremony.
“I’m very happy with they way all my girls have handled themselves all season – and I think if you looked at it as a whole, you can see we’ve found our identity,” said U-Hi coach Mark Weis. “Mead’s a tough team, but we’ll grow from this match. This was a good level for us to play at.”
Elsewhere in the GSL, Kennadie Clute finished with nine digs and four aces in Mt. Spokane’s 25-12, 25-15, 25-23 win over visiting North Central. The Wildcats (6-2 GSL) Paiton Larson had a match-high 17 assists. The Indians (0-8) were led by Morgan Kelly, who finished with a match-high 10 digs. … Kendra Chester led all players with 11 kills to help Central Valley sweep visiting Ferris 25-12, 25-16, 25-21. Tia Pau had 10 digs for CV (6-2), while Hannah Moore led the Saxons (2-6) with six kills. … In the closest GSL match of the night, Darby Santos finished with 14 kills and five aces as Shadle Park (5-3) got past host Rogers 25-10, 25-18, 23-25, 21-25, 15-10. Samantha Thompson finished with 13 kills and four aces for Rogers (2-6).