Early exit for Oly volleyball

A No. 2 seed and home-court advantage weren’t enough to propel the Olympic volleyball team to districts.

A No. 2 seed and home-court advantage weren’t enough to propel the Olympic volleyball team to districts.

The Lady Trojans (11-5) were eliminated from the playoffs in a 3-1 (25-10, 23-25, 25-13, 25-20) sub-district loss to North Thurston of the Western Cascade League at home Wednesday.

The Rams, playing with the lead much of the way, capitalized on unforced errors and converted their own opportunities to keep momentum the entire way. It was a pressure-packed environment, and Olympic coach Keith Peden said his team succumbed to it.

“That’s just one of the issues we have in this area; we don’t play big games like this every day,” Peden said. “North Thurston, they played loose, they were out here playing. Instead of playing aggressive, we played tentative.”

Yet the Lady Trojans kept things interesting much of the way.

After a sluggish start, dropping the first game by 15 points, the team rebounded to take the second game by two. It dropped the third, but fought back to tie Game 4 16-16. The Rams, however, rebounded to score nine of the final 13 points.

“Sometimes I think we spend a little too much time looking at the scoreboard,” Peden said. “We play according to the score. When they just play like they can play, they do a good job.”

Erynn Geno and Liz Polson had four blocks apiece, Sam Thornton posted five kills and Amy Stone added five aces for the Lady Trojans, who lose seven seniors to graduation.

The Rams (7-8), who defeated North Kitsap in a similar situation to advance to districts last year, advance to districts as the OWL No. 3 seed. Peden said the fact that North Thurston consistently faces teams from the South Puget Sound League — traditionally a strong conference — gave the Rams an advantage because they are accustomed to playing in tight, pressure-packed games.

“Anytime you can put them (the players) in a pressure-cooker, anytime you can get them in a game … we just want to get them in pressure games because that’s where we struggle,” he said. “They know what it’s like now, so next year as we go through, hopefully we can look ahead and know this isn’t how it’s always going to be.”

While Olympic loses about half its lineup to graduation, those who are set to return next year will bring the experience and memories of Wednesday’s game back, using it as a catalyst to return to districts.

But for the seniors, the season ended too early.

“They are a great group of kids. They are a tight group, they’ve been together and they’ve played well together,” Peden said. “It’s too bad you have to end this way.”

Equally as painful, Peden said the postseason draw was favorable and the team would have had a good chance to reach state had it beat the Rams.

“We really loved the draw. This was probably, between here and a state berth, this was probably the hardest game we may have faced,” he said. “We had things in our favor, we just didn’t necessarily capitalize and we made some errors when we probably shouldn’t have.”