Game one of the Olympic League season proved once again that North Kitsap is going to be a tough volleyball opponent this season.
Bainbridge Island learned that Tuesday night.
Led by senior standout Riley Rabedeaux, the more experienced Vikings took down a younger Bainbridge squad in three sets 25-15, 25-9, 25-19.
There were times when Rabedeaux, the two-time All-State honorable mention, used her spiking prowess to take over the match. Any time Bainbridge threatened to climb back into a set, Vikings setter Sophia Baugh went to her go-to hitter.
Rabedeaux finished with 24 kills and three service aces, and Baugh picked up 28 assists and seven kills.
“It was nice to see,” said Kaelea Makaiwi, who took over this season for longtime head coach Tim French, with whom she served as an assistant for a number of years. “I was nervous about how it would all come together.”
Like most teams, North Kitsap and Bainbridge had little time practicing proper six-on-six drills — just one day, in fact. That was definitely a tougher break for the inexperienced Spartans, who returned just two full-time starters from a year ago and had to open against a Vikings team that has gone to the 2A state tournament each of the past seven seasons.
“It was nice for them to see a really strong North team with some very powerful hitters and introduce them to the world of varsity,” said Bainbridge coach Jen Roman, also in the first season at the helm of her varsity program.
But the Spartans gave North Kitsap everything they had. The first half of set one was extraordinarily tight at 12-10 until the Vikings wore them down on a 13-5 run to close it out.
The Vikings easily won the second set, but BI fought back in the third and battled North Kitsap down to the wire led by juniors Isabelle Prentice and Allie Wildsmith and senior Lauren de Gall. The Spartans went on a 9-2 run to erase a 14-7 deficit and tie the set at 16. The Vikings were able to reassert themselves to take the final set and the match, but Bainbridge looked more self-assured as the match wore on.
“It’s a matter of confidence for a lot of the girls ,and by the third set they realized where they were ,and we’re only going to get better from here,” Roman said.
It was a fine night for North Kitsap’s supporting players as well. Baugh added seven kills to go along with her excellent passing, which helped keep Bainbridge’s defense off balance. Senior libero Autumn Carver added five aces and sophomores Mary Allen, Maddie Pryde and Lillian Pruden were all ferocious at the net, doing their best to keep the Spartans from getting too many clean looks on offense.
“They have big roles to fill, but they’re doing a really good job,” Rabedeaux said of her younger teammates. “I’m proud of them.”
North Kitsap is going to need that strong support to defend its Olympic League crown, which it has won in each of the past 11 seasons. The road to another league title will go through a few new cities this year, and will include another match with what should be a markedly improved Bainbridge team on March 9 in Poulsbo.
“The kids just worked hard, and we’ve got some younger new faces out there, and they did great for the first game,” Makaiwi said.