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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Leveling up: Lakeside volleyball hitting stride with victories over large-school foes

By Madison McCord For The Spokesman-Review

Jessica Stires knows how important momentum is in volleyball.

The senior outside hitter also knows she and her Lakeside teammates have plenty of it at the moment.

And they have no intention of slowing down.

“At the beginning of the season we were all really nervous to see how we would stack up, but then after we started rolling we’ve just felt like we are on top of the world,” Stires said.

An impressive run of early-season results continued Tuesday night as the Eagles swept visiting Riverside 25-11, 25-14, 25-14 to remain unbeaten (5-0) in Northeast A league play.

But it’s been Lakeside’s nonleague showings that have turned the Eagles into a state title contender.

At the SunDome Volleyball Festival on Sept. 18 in Yakima, the Class 1A Eagles won the No. 2 seed bracket championship after defeating perennial Class 4A power West Valley (Yakima), along with 4A schools Central Valley and Rogers (Puyallup).

“When we went to the SunDome it seemed like every match was against super tough competition,” Lakeside coach Kara Moffatt said. “My kids just don’t give up, and they just fight the whole way.

“It’s a massive momentum builder, and now they walk on the court feeling really confident about what they are doing.”

Lakeside’s lone loss in Yakima was to Wenatchee, which is ranked ninth in the latest Washington State Volleyball Coaches Association 4A poll.

Fifth-ranked Lakeside doubled down on its challenging nonleague slate with a fifth-place finish at last weekend’s Linda Sheridan Classic. The Eagles topped Greater Spokane League foes Ferris and Ridgeline before falling to Mead in the quarterfinals.

“We love playing really tough teams,” Stires said. “Mead was such a fun team to play, and even though we lost we all had a great time and played some great volleyball.”

All of the success against larger schools doesn’t mean Lakeside is immune from tests at its own level.

Standing in the way of Moffatt’s 13th league title in 23 years at the helm is top-ranked Freeman.

The teams already have the first meeting of the season in the books, as Lakeside topped the Scotties 3-1, but Moffatt noted Freeman was shorthanded due to COVID-19 protocols.

The teams meet again Oct. 12 at Freeman, a game which Moffatt said won’t require much buildup on her part.

“That one is already circled on the girls’ calendar,” Moffatt said. “It’s so weird, because off the court the girls are really good friends with Freeman because they play club together. But that one I don’t have to say much ahead of, they’re just ready to go.”

Assuming both teams are at full strength for the showdown, Moffatt knows she has plenty of experienced players to lean on for leadership on and off the court, including co-captains Stires and libero Mamiko Patterson.

Both were a part of the 2019 team that took third place at state, but while Stires was playing during the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season, Patterson had to watch from the sidelines after tearing her MCL while skiing.

“It was definitely a setback, but it was less physically tough and more mentally tough,” Patterson said. “Just seeing the girls out on the court enjoying the game I have played since sixth grade, or seeing the ball drop and knowing there’s nothing I can do really hurt me.”

With her knee healed, Patterson is ready to leave it all out on the court in her senior season.

“I’ve made it my goal to make sure there is 100% effort on every play by every player,” Patterson said. “My body will be on the floor no matter what.”

With the postseason on the horizon, Lakeside is looking to extend its streak of eight consecutive state appearances, including a title in 2016 and a runner-up finish in 2012.

“After the SunDome I am confident not only that we can make it to state, but also take home first place,” Stires said. “If we give 100% effort and go hard in practice everyday we can do anything.”