EAST BREMERTON — Klahowya went into its third set against Olympic on Tuesday night already ahead 2-0 and looking to put away its 2A Olympic League opponent.
The Eagles had won the first two sets by relatively comfortable margins, but the Trojans weren’t ready to let them saunter back to the other side of Dyes Inlet without a fight.
Set three was tied at 7 when Olympic took charge with an 8-2 run, but that just brought out the Eagles’ own fighting spirit. Bella Young, Chloe Settle and Rachel Bailey all recorded kills — Bailey had an ace as well — and Klahowya was back within a point.
A Klahowya spike hit wide gave momentum back to the Trojans and Alani Pajimula led her team on another mini-run with an ace and a block, putting them back in front, 20-15.
The Eagles then reeled off eight straight points thanks to two kills from Katie Cooper and and two aces from Anna Bell. Bell’s first ace tied the set at 21, then Bailey, one of the team’s two setters, faked the set and sent the ball over the net into an empty area for another point. Cooper followed up with one final kill and the Eagles walked off with a win in straight sets, 25-18, 25-16, 25-23.
“I love the comeback,” said Klahowya head coach Wendy Kraft.
That’s the way the Eagles have played all season long. They scrap, fight and claw their way to victory. And they win often; Klahowya has an 11-1 record and is one win away from clinching another Olympic League title.
“I think we have a good connection as a team,” said senior libero Maile Lueck. “No matter how far down we are, we can always come back and keep fighting.”
Lueck led the Eagles with 20 digs against Olympic, Cooper finished with seven kills and Bell had four aces. Bailey and Young were a perfect 20-for-20 and 14-for-14 serving respectively.
“Serving is a strength of ours throughout the whole rotation of six,” Kraft said. “The quality doesn’t dip.”
And if they are victorious Tuesday against Chimacum, they will lock up the No. 1 seed in the 1A District Tournament, which is going to be held right on campus this year at Klahowya. That first district game would take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9.
The team’s five seniors, Lueck, Settle, Bailey, Sarah Greene and Natalie Wise, are hoping to be a part of the team that makes the first state tournament appearance in program history. They were able to get a look at one of the team’s they will see at districts — their only loss of the season came on Sept. 24 against Cascade Christian.
“I think this time we’ll be a lot better prepared because we know how they hit,” Lueck said. “We have the mentality to go to state this year, we really want it.”
The Trojans are still alive for a spot in the Olympic League tournament and 2A District Tournament as well. They currently sit in fifth place in the Olympic League, needing a top four spot to qualify, with three matches to go. Tuesday’s match with Kingston is a big one as they are currently one game behind the Bucs.
Against Klahowya, Molly Gates led the team with 27 digs and also recorded three aces. Kaylani Riley had 17 digs and 11 assists, Faith Harer had five kills and 14 digs, Jaylaa Cabrera had 11 digs and Pajimula had two aces, four kills and two blocks. The Trojans will need to bring that strong defense and net play to its final three games.
“We’re still alive,” said Olympic head coach Keith Peden. “We need a little help, but we’ll keep fighting until it’s over.”
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.