SILVERDALE — The Eagles may have been down two sets to one in their regular season finale against Bremerton, but with a nine-game winning streak on the line, they fought back the way they have all year.
Klahowya prevailed, 25-15, in set four and dominated set five, 15-11, to pick up its tenth win a row and finish the season with a 12-3 record. Next up is the district playoffs, where, as league champions, the program will have the No. 1 Olympic League seed.
The Eagles’ strengths were on full display. They defended extraordinarily well — led by Maile Lueck’s incredible 45 digs — made few errors and their service was top-notch. Taylor Bruce picked up six of her team’s 15 aces.
“That was phenomenal — from every single player,” Klahowya head coach Wendy Kraft said.
Set four turned the tied of the match as the Eagles took an 8-3 lead on a pair of aces by Chloe Settle. The Knights rallied back with five consecutive points, but another 8-3 runs punctuated by an Anna Bell kill gave them an insurmountable cushion and forced the fifth and final set. Rachel Bailey had a pair of aces as Klahowya got out to a seven-point lead, and they held on for the win.
The Eagles knew they would be out-hit — and they were; Lily Gelhaus had a match-high 18 kills and Patricia Reyes finished with 17 — but the Eagles were solid in all other phases of the game.
“We don’t have that kind of power necessarily,” Kraft said. “We can sometimes, but we’re not a big hitting team. We’re a defensive-minded team, we play well together.”
The Knights were in control in set one, opening an 9-3 lead, but after that, they struggled to keep up with a tenacious Klahowya team that prides itself on getting a hand on every attack. Although they won sets one and three, the long rallies eventually took their toll.
“When you have hitters like Lily Gelhaus, teams don’t return the ball,” Bremerton head coach Brandon Lilly said. “We came into this knowing Klahowya was really scrappy, a very defensive team.”
Meanwhile, Klahowya had strong performances up and down the lineup. Settle and Katie Cooper were powerful presences in the middle and led the team with eight and seven kills respectively. Cooper also had a match-high nine blocks and Settle recorded six. Bruce played good defense in addition to her excellent service and setters Bailey and Bell played superb all-around games.
Even when part-time players rotated in, the team was still firing on all cylinders.
“To have Baleigh [Pyle] come in, Grace [Christensen], Bella [Young] and Lizzy [Rhizor] to come in and perform their roles, that’s where we’re going to win our games,” Kraft said.
Klahowya gets to bypass the pigtail games in the 1A District 3 tournament. Its first game is currently scheduled for 11 a.m. on Nov. 3 at Charles Wright Academy where they will face the No. 2 Nisqually seed, Bellevue Christian. The Eagles will need to win two games to get to the state tournament.
“There’s no reason we can’t do it if we play like we did tonight,” Kraft said.
Knights finish season with 4-10 record
Bremerton had a lot of roster turnover this year with only three players on last year’s varsity roster returning. Lilly, in his first year at the helm, knew it would be a built of a rebuilding year.
The team finished with a 4-10 record, 3-10 in the Olympic League. The Knights won matches over Port Angeles (twice), Olympic and Port Townsend.
Lilly, a club coach himself, noted that he had few players on his team that played volleyball outside of school, in contrast to most other Kitsap programs.
“I’ve taken a state track star and made a blocker out of her,” Lilly said. “I’ve got basketball players, and I’m making blockers out of them.”
Gelhaus, who will likely be named to the all-league team for the third time next month, led Bremerton in kills (123) and digs (91). She finished second in aces (19) and third in blocks (23). She, along with Tyishea McWhorter, Jada Bain and Alia Steele are the four seniors graduating this year.
Sophomore Patricia Reyes was one of the team’s top players. She finished second on the team in kills (107), second in digs (78) and led the Knights with 20 aces. Reyes will be one of Bremerton’s key players next year along with freshman setter Brooklyn Irvine, who racked up 221 assists. She also had 18 aces. Junior libero Jennifer Kielly was third on the team in digs with 56.
“I had a great first season in Bremerton,” Lilly said.
Klahowya 3, Bremerton 2
20-25, 25-22, 21-25, 25-15, 15-11
Kills — Settle 8, Cooper 7, Lont 5.
Assists — Bailey 15, Bell 9.
Digs — Lueck 45, Bruce 11, Bell 7.
Blocks — Cooper 9, Settle 6, Bruce 4.
Aces — Bruce 6, Bailey 2, Bell 2.
Kills — Gelhaus 18, Reyes 17, Bain 5, McWhorter 5.
Assists — Irvine 41, Falotico.
Digs — Gelhaus 15, Reyes 14, Kielly 11.
Blocks — Gelhaus 5, Bain 4, McWhorter 4.
Aces — Gelhaus 4, McWhorter 2, Bain, Heath, Reyes.