After cruising through the first two sets, Mead finally encountered some resistance from its undefeated foe in the State 3A title game.
But being forged in the competitive atmosphere of the Greater Spokane League, the Panthers found resilience … and a state championship.
Mia Tunison led four players with six or more kills with 10 and fourth-seeded Mead (20-2) topped second-seeded Peninsula (21-1) 25-11, 25-16, 21-25, 25-23 in the State 3A championship match at Yakima Valley SunDome on Friday.
“This is a year we were waiting for for a long time,” Mead coach Shawn Wilson said.
“I’ve been dreaming of this since I can remember,” senior Emily Hutchinson said.
“I didn’t even think I was gonna cry, and it just bursted out,” junior Cassie Moeller said. “I don’t know the words – it just exploded and we all just started crying and it was so amazing. There’s nothing better in the world.”
The Panthers were dominant defensively with 24 blocks, including Danikah Johnson with seven, Hutchinson with six and Hayley Smith with five.
Mead took the first two sets fairly easily, but the Seahawks adjusted in the third to win a tight set. The fourth set was back-and-forth and Peninsula tied it at 23, but Moeller’s tip gave Mead the ball back and Brielle Wilson’s ace – the coach’s daughter – won it.
The Panthers “got back to basics,” according to Moeller in the fourth set.
“We started strong and the other team was down a little bit,” Wilson said. “We got a lot of blocks and then they came storming right back so it’s nice to win when it’s really tough and our kids are under pressure and able to come back and persevere from a loss, and then come back and get a win that’s really tight. Super proud of them.”
Playing in a league as competitive as the GSL, and having the two-time defending state champions in the same school district, has helped Mead deal with pressure situations. Mead knocked off Mt. Spokane on Thursday in a state quarterfinal and dealt the Wildcats all of their three losses this season.
“The fact that they are our rivals, it just like makes us want it even more because like, we’re in the GSL, we can do this as well,” Moeller said. “It represents the Mead (school) district really well too. Like, they’re the defending state champs and now we have it this year.”
“Mt. Spokane actually came up to us before (the final) and they’re like, ‘Keep the trophy in Spokane,’ ” Hutchinson said. “They wanted it just as bad as we did.”
“I think (the competition) really helps,” Wilson said. “We’ve been exposed to that. That really tight fifth set, and third set, and you know, 25-23 sets all season long. And for them to be in that and then just still be able to perform, that’s kind of like been our goal, to be able to perform under those conditions – and they have.”
In Mead’s quarterfinal earlier in the day, Johnson had 12 kills with seven blocks and Madi Zorn had 34 assists with three aces and the Panthers swept eighth-seeded Auburn Riverside 25-21, 25-19, 25-22.
Mt. Spokane 3, Arlington 1: Teila Allen had 20 kills, 18 digs and four aces and the Wildcats (17-3) beat the 11th-seeded Eagles (20-5) in the state fifth-place match.
“I honestly think this is the best we’ve ever played together and I’m happy,” the senior said. “Even though it was a hard loss yesterday (against Mead), it was hard for everybody. But we felt so good about it. Like, we all played together, we were finally playing as a team.”
Allen was part of two state title teams her ninth-grade and sophomore years.
“This has been the funnest state tournament for me,” she said, “And I’m really glad I get to leave it at that, even if it is fifth place.”
Mt. Spokane, the two-time defending state champion, swept top-seeded Lakeside (Seattle) (20-2) 25-19, 25-18, 25-22 in a loser-out earlier in the day. Lakeside had lost one set all season prior to state.
“I’m super proud of them,” coach Laurie Quigley said. “I mean, when you look at our matches against Mead we lost by a four-point differential, so obviously that was heartbreaking. But to have to come back and get the No. 1 seed first thing this morning and win in three and then battle back after we lost the first one (against Arlington), I am super, super proud of them.”
Bothell 3, Gonzaga Prep 2: The eighth-seeded Bullpups (13-6) were edged in five sets by the top-seeded Cougars (23-2) in a quarterfinal.
G-Prep plays fifth-seeded Camas (19-2) in a fifth-place bracket match Saturday at 3:15 p.m.
“I think we competed well, we actually had them a couple of times,” G-Prep coach Jill Benson said. “I think chemistry kind of got us where we are and chemistry kind of pulled us through.”
In a first-round match earlier in the day, the Bullpups beat ninth-seeded Olympia (14-8) 18-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-19.
Kamiakin 3, Central Valley 0: The 15th-seeded Bears (8-11) were swept by the 10th-seeded Braves (18-3) 28-26, 25-16, 27-25 in a seventh-place bracket loser-out.
CV upset Kamiakin in five sets in the District 8 tourney to qualify for state.
“It’s such a win for this team, every single one of them fought so hard,” coach Kazlyn Roullier said. “And it’s a first year for this team, a new coaching staff, new girls with Ridgeline splitting our school, it was all new. We didn’t know what to expect … it was a big success for all of us.”
CV played without injured outside hitter Robyn White, who signed last week to play for Midwestern State (Texas).
“She’s definitely one of our go-to players, but it’s life,” Roullier said. “It’s athletics. Injuries happen.”
The Bears fell to second-seeded Curtis (21-4) 25-14, 25-12, 25-18 in a first-round match earlier in the day.
Shadle Park 3, Ellensburg 2: The 15th-seeded Highlanders (14-6) beat the 10th-seeded Bulldogs (14-6) 22-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-12, 15-12 in a seventh-place bracket loser-out.
Shadle Park faces No. 11 Enumclaw in a loser-out Saturday at 9:45 a.m.
“This is the icing on the cake,” Shadle coach Brooke Meyer said. “With nine seniors on the team and to get to be one of the last 16 teams playing in the state? There’s nothing like it.”
Shadle Park fell to second-seeded Steilacoom (19-2) 25-18, 25-17, 18-25, 25-15 in a first-round match earlier in the day.
“They really fought hard and this has kind of been what they’ve learned so long, is to just know that if we ever lose, that we put it all out there on the floor and have no regrets,” Meyer said.
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