The meat of the Greater Spokane League volleyball season is yet to come, but the championship match of Saturday’s 62-team Linda Sheridan Volleyball Classic offered a glimpse of the possibilities.
Gonzaga Prep defeated Mead in the taught, exciting All-GSL finale, a signature win for coach Jill Benson and the Bullpups who for the past three seasons have fallen just shy of qualifying for state.
“It’s a big deal for us,” Benson said following the three-set title match. “It’s kind of the first time we proved when it came down to a championship game it was just us being able to take that step above and push through.”
The Panthers won game one of the three set match 25-17, but Prep seemed unperturbed even though they were outscored 11-4 at the end.
The Bullpups broke a 10-10 tie in game two for a 20-13 lead and weathered a torrid Mead comeback that had tied the game at 22-22.
But mistakes doomed Mead at the end leading to kills by Gonzaga in the final fury, including Grace Zemke’s game decider.
In the decisive third game, Kate Budig took it upon herself to provide the leadership as she and Zemke dominated at the end. And the defense of libero Ashlyn O’Keefe in the backcourt proved to be a difference maker.
She was all over digging up balls hit by Mead attackers that appeared to be headed to the court surface.
“I want to give (Ashlyn) a shout-out,” Benson said. “She played great defense and that’s a big deal. Our libero is out for the season and stepping into her shoes is huge.”
Original starting libero, senior Maggie Davidson, tore an ACL and is lost for the season.
Budig’s contributions couldn’t be overstated. “It sounds cliché, but I wasn’t really thinking that much,” she said. “We were just flowing. Everything felt right in the end. I knew when we got to 10 we were going to win.”
That was part of a five-point run that put the Bullpups up by three on the way to a 10-4 finish.
“Anything’s possible with this team,” Benson said. “We just work well. We‘re pretty calm and we lean on each other. It pushes us through at the end.”
In the semifinals, Prep survived a taut match against eventual third-place finisher Post Falls winning 28-26 in game two that forced a final set. Mead’s McKenna Russell paced Mead past Graham-Kapowsin.
Wil Smith finished fifth with a time of 15:56.80 to lead Lewis and Clark to a first-place finish in the Mountain West Classic in Missoula.
Ferris took third in the race behind second-place Bozeman. Gonzaga Prep finished fourth.
Gonzaga Prep’s Turlan Morlan was the top finisher of Washington schools, placing fourth with a time of 15:52.90.
On the girls’ side, Central Valley finished fifth behind four Montana schools.
Claire Dingus led Washignton teams with a seventh-place finish for University and a time of 18:49.20. The Titans took 20th place in the invitational.
Erinn Hill finished third in Flight 7 with a time of 18:20.43 to lead North Central in a first-place finish at the Sunfair Invitational in Yakima.
Mia Hill took second for the Indians in Flight 6 at 19:01.63.
On the boys’ side, Daniel Jarvis finished fifth in Flight 6 with a time of 16:38.10 and Eli Gilbert also took fifth in Flight 5 at 16:49.14 to lead Mead to a second-place finish behind Kamiakin.
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