By JAMES MANGE
A speaker at a volleyball clinic once said, “You can tell a good volleyball team by the sound of its hits. bip, bip, BAM! is preferred.” King’s West made sweet sounds all season, ending with a classy performance at the state tournament last weekend in Yakima.
The thing about the sound:
Starting with the pass off reception, just hope for any sound not related to the splat of volleyball on floor. All you want is to survive the hit and get a pass somewhere workable. Simple and quiet.
With the set, we again want little noise. No whuffs of breath exploding from players bumping into each other, no muttering the word impossible (or imbecile), or any less than sincere use of a familial nickname for a fellow player or coach, or…well, you get the idea. Each team is different.
But there’s more to the calm of that second hit. There’s a little bit of a bite in the tone. It still gives nothing away, but it somehow comes with purpose. It doesn’t warn of a long out on the set, and it doesn’t whisper of a reverse quick, but its a klaxon call of the fierce release of the impending attack.
The Warrior women don’t appear all that tough. With coach Dan Dittmer in charge, the girls are quiet and demure. They have to be. With Daddy Dittmer in charge, kicking up your heels is a night out at the Safeway in North Bend, and a workout at Selah High School gym.
On second look, the King’s West crew stays on the stealthy side. They don’t go making a lot of noise over themselves. No in-your-face trash talk. Basically, they’re a perfect set of ambassadors for the school. But there’s an excitement, nonetheless. There’s a buzz. A charge in the air.
When we get to the boom, in the illustration, and of the King’s West team, the sound is impressive. A comment over heard tells a lot about the team. The dialog was in direct reference to only one player, but the image created screams of the whole team. “King’s West? Oh! They’re the team with the little blond ninja.”
Just as the Warriors draw a tremendous energy from Irene Moore, they also strike as a band, with a strong sense of clam and focus.
Read on, grasshopper.
First of all, the team should never have gotten to the tournament anyway. After all, they were only fifth place in their own league. Only a do-or-die match got them into districts. There, the Warriors fought off two more lose and go home affairs, with the last being Dittmer’s 100th as a head coach. And talk about a match to be your 100th…
Bear Creek was the SeaTac League champion. The conference where the Warriors were a middle of the pack team. KW took care of business in four games to earn the school’s first ever trip to the state finals.
The state tournament started early last Friday in the SunDome, and KW faced Wilbur-Creston, the eventual third place trophy winner.
King’s West couldn’t slow Wilbur-Creston down until the middle of the second game, falling 16-25 and trailing 1-9. But the Warriors fought nearly even the rest of the second frame, losing 15-25. In the third game, the Warriors held two early leads, as late as 8-7, but ended up short in a 19-25 final.
That put the team into the consolation bracket, and one more loss would mean zero wins at state. That meant a rematch with Life Christian, one of the teams to beat King’s West at districts. When asked the teams’ mood soon after that first match, Megan Morris said calmly, “They’re going down.”
Morris was right, and it only took three games. After struggling for every inch in the first two games, 26-24, and 28-26, the Warriors pounced on a 9-0 start.
“We jumped on them,” Dittmer said, “and we just played error free. It was scary good. It was really a lot of fun. The kids just played so well. Those were the best three games we’ve played all season.”
Dittmer then felt obliged to quibble, and added a proviso, “well, with the possible exception of the win over Bear Creek,” he said, referring to the district win that provided both the state berth and the “ninja blond” trademark.
Darrington was next up, and not to be denied on its way to a fifth place state finish. Darrington won 25-15, 25-19 and 25-19.
“The girls played really well,” Dittmer said, “but every mistake we’d make, they took advantage of it. That loss was not for a lack of trying.
“Going to state is hard. So many things have to go right. We know what it’s like to play at state.”
And they know what its like to win while they’re there.
When asked to recall a moment that seemed critical in the first state match, Hannah Fontenot started to jump up like she does when about to reject an opponent’s spike, and she praised a block made by Megan Spence.
“That first major block that Spence got,” Fontenot pointed to with admiration, “that really got us jump started emotionally.”
Spence, injured much of the season, yet still with more than 100 kills going into state, knows what the state tournament feels like in two sports.
“I think the state basketball is a little more intense,” Spence said. “It’s nosier somehow. Even though there’s a lot going on,” Spence added, pointing to the five matches all in progress on the floor, at basketball the feeling was like more people were focusing on you and your team.”
Morris, another of the hoopers, the proud owner of more than 200 attack kills this season, and the winner of another award soon to be announced in a publication near you, said both have been great.
“This is really special because we’re making history,” Morris said.