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Titans on track: Denied last year, U-Hi eyes 3A volleyball title

Sydney Schlect led the University Titans in kills, kill percentage and digs this season. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Sydney Schlect led the University Titans in kills, kill percentage and digs this season. (Tyler Tjomsland)

Qualifying for the State 3A volleyball tournament was satisfaction enough for Sydney Schlect and her University Titans teammates.

Better yet, U-Hi can finally set aside the heartbreak from last season.

Schlect, a 5-foot-8 junior outside hitter, led the Titans this year with 272 kills, a 42.2 kill percentage and 225 digs.

Schlect quickly deflects the attention away from her numbers.

“I know I’ve had a pretty strong season, but really it starts with how the ball gets to me,” Schlect said. “I can say that if there’s going to be a good hit, there has to be a good set. And if there’s going to be a good set, there has to be a good pass.”

The same attention to the value of teamwork came in handy last season, when the Titans were denied a chance to compete for a state berth at regional when the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association ruled that Schlect was an ineligible player.

“We were devastated, really,” Schlect said. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done … but (teammates) were so encouraging. We had lots of tears, lots of hugs. It was tough to just have the season done, but now it’s just amazing that we can get to state and what happened is past and we can still play.”

The WIAA ruling was based on Schlect being a full-time student at The Oaks Classical Christian Academy. Although The Oaks’ volleyball team isn’t sanctioned by the WIAA, the association interpreted its policies to include The Oaks in its definition of private schools, Sydney’s father Jeff said.

“Since that time, we have endeavored to move forward, working collaboratively with the WIAA and U-Hi, to properly address Sydney’s eligibility, and we are obviously very happy that we were able to do so,” Jeff said.

Now Sydney is registered in the Central Valley School District, taking home-based classes and one class at U-Hi while still attending The Oaks.

First-year Titans coach Mike Summers is glad it’s settled.

“If I was a college coach and I wasn’t looking at her as an outside hitter, I would definitely look at her as a libero or defensive specialist, because she’s that good,” Summers said. “She has a gift at reading hitters and reading what the other side is doing.”

Summers said Schlect’s abilities are improved by hard work and conditioning. U-Hi’s new quick-tempo offense is a natural for Schlect’s quickness.

“She’s gone against some big hitters and she’s one of those special players who knows where to put the ball,” Summers said.

Schlect has developed those talents despite not playing volleyball seriously until eighth grade.

“We’ve been a basketball family,” Schlect said. “In eighth grade, I decided to try something different.”

Schlect hopes to play next season with her sister Rachael, an eighth-grader.

Older brothers Tyson and Carson attend Washington State University. Sydney’s mother LuRae, a former CV student, met Jeff at WSU.

The Titans (20-7), ranked second in the current Washington coaches’ poll, open state play against Meadowdale at 3:15 p.m. Friday at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey.

U-Hi’s typical lineup, except for senior setter Kylie Collins, is loaded with underclassmen: junior libero Sarah Carpenter, junior setter Alex Douglas, junior middle hitter Brooklynn Tacke, sophomore OH Kendall Collins and sophomore MH Daryn Griffith.