SILVERDALE — The postseason may not start for another two weeks, but Central Kitsap is already in the mindset that every game is a must-win.
The Cougars are hoping to hold on to the No. 4 spot in the South Sound Conference, which would keep them out of a pigtail match in the district tournament.
They have scored some big wins recently, picking up victories in five of their last seven matches, including wins over Yelm, Peninsula and Shelton as well as an enormous five-set win over Gig Harbor on Oct. 11.
“We’ve improved steadily all season,” head coach Becky Arthur said. “I’d like to put all the pieces together in a single night. Gig Harbor is the closest to a complete match that we’ve played.”
On Tuesday night, they took another step toward that goal with a three-set sweep of Timberline, 25-16, 25-21, 25-22.
The triumph served as absolution for the team. When the Cougars went down to Timberline on Sept. 13, they lost three sets to one. It stands as the Blazers’ only win of the season and was a missed opportunity to pick up another game in the standings.
“We traveled down there and had a really bad match, and so that’s kind of in their heads,” Arthur said.
It wasn’t the prettiest match — a few too many service errors in each set helped Timberline stick around a little longer than they should have — but for the most part, the Cougars were able to rebound and forge on.
“If you miss a serve, you just have to shake it off and go for the next one,” said Gabby Everman, one of two team captains.
The Cougars were otherwise solid — their serve-receive was excellent and allowed the offense to get rolling. Hitters Baylee Anderson, Keahi-Rose Sarono, Kaija Corry, Allison Baldridge and Kaili Enyeart were in good form and showed good chemistry with their setter Everman. The defense, led by libero Bella Capuano, also played well, and there was rarely a glaring hole to be exploited by the Timberline hitters.
“We have a lot of strong, powerful hitters, but if we don’t have the passes for me to set, it’s out of system and it doesn’t click,” Everman said.
The win gives Central Kitsap a 6-4 record, but the pressure is still on to keep winning. Gig Harbor is just one game behind, and Shelton is still in the mix. There is still enough time left for Yelm and Timberline to get hot and make a run as well.
The Cougars have another big match on Thursday against Yelm, followed by Peninsula, North Thurston and Shelton.
“We know that every match matters,” said Arthur.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.