Kingston clinched their spot atop the Olympic League North Division Wednesday night, taking the de facto championship match against Sequim in straight sets.
The Bucs have rolled through league competition — their only loss coming against 3A Central Kitsap in the South Division — with a spotless record against divisional opponents; and Sequim entered Wednesday with only a prior loss to Kingston.
Despite missing a few players this season who might have turned out under normal non-COVID-19 circumstances, the Bucs won 25-17, 25-18, 25-20, 28-26 and 15-12. They agreed beforehand to play five sets.
“We’ve got a really solid group of girls who just want to work hard and have fun playing the game,” senior Morgan Halady said.
For Kingston, errors rarely snowballed and a strong defense kept Sequim from getting too many runs.
“These girls blow my mind every time I get in the gym with them,” Kingston first-year coach Mikaela Strutz said. “Whether it’s a practice or a game, they literally impress me every time.”
When your lineup features 6-foot-2 middle blocker Halady and outside hitter Marion Stejer the eye is naturally drawn to their power hitting.
“It’s a huge attack,” Strutz said. “They’re so strong offensively, they serve well, they pick up defense well, they’re really smart players.”
Kingston and Sequim were in a close battle much of the way in the first set. The Wolves took a 14-11 lead, but the Bucs roared back to tie it with a kill from Halady followed by two aces from Olivia Call. Sequim seemed to have some trouble digging out and making good passes with Kate McCabe on serve, and the Bucs took advantage going on an 8-1 run to close the set. Halady added four more kills, and Stejer scored the last point on a block.
Kingston hit its groove in set two with a 7-0 run that broke open the contest. McCabe was on serve again and picked up an ace, and Halady and Stejer each had kills. Stejer picked up four more kills as the Bucs played with a large lead the rest of the way.
In set three, Sequim twice threatened to force an official fourth set, but Kingston overcame the deficit both times. Sequim led 12-8, but a pair of kills from Suzanne Skinner and an ace from Eva Stejer helped close the gap. The Wolves pulled ahead again 19-16, and Kingston pulled even on another ace from Call. The final set was tied at 20 until Halady smashed three more kills during a 5-0 run to clinch the match.
“There’s nothing in between any of these girls,” Strutz said. “They just play together in practice and on the court.”
Kingston has one more divisional match Tuesday against Chimacum/Port Townsend, but circled on everyone’s calendar is a closing match with inter-district rival North Kitsap. Many players on both teams also play club volleyball both with and against one another, and their matches have been some of the most intense and competitive in any sport in the West Sound over the past few years, making it a fitting way to end the shortened season.
“It’s always friendly competition, but also a really good game because we’re all competitive,” Halady said.