SILVERDALE — The Klahowya Eagles walked off the court after their district tournament game Nov. 2 against Cascade Christian disappointed, but knowing the best was yet to come.
With a three-set loss to their Nisqually League opponent, 22-25, 18-25, 21-25, ending their 2017 district run, emotions on the court quickly turned from dismay to excitement as thoughts of next year, and the return of all but one starter, became a part of the conversation.
“In seventh grade, I didn’t even make the team and now I’m a three-year varsity starter,” said senior Marianne Marker, the lone 12th grader to start the final game of the season. “I worked really hard to get to where I am, and I believe the younger players will do the same because they’re just as dedicated.”
That is some high praise from the outgoing senior, but at times this year, Klahowya teased some of that promise.
The Eagles lost a five-set thriller against Kingston on Sept. 19 in which they went on an 11-1 run to erase a 23-14 advantage in the pivotal third set. It was a game in which their service was terrific and the hitting was pinpoint. The Eagles also defeated a solid 2A team in Bremerton in four sets on Oct. 19.
Some of these ingredients were missing against Cascade Christian, but the Cougars were also particularly sharp in some important aspects, including serving and hitting. The two sides also participated in several long rallies throughout the evening, most of which went the way of the Cougars.
“This is the team I know we can be. I think our hitting was slightly off tonight, but other than that, I think everything else looked fantastic,” said Klahowya head coach Wendy Kraft. “With a young team, I could not ask for anything more. I think the better team won tonight, but I don’t think we lost it.”
Cascade Christian freshman Avaree Dumars and senior Piper Mauro hit well from the outside, and although Klahowya registered eight blocks as a team — four by sophomore Chloe Settle, and two each by junior Katrien Lont and sophomore Sarah Greene — the talented Cougar hitters were both excellent and occasionally fortunate, as a few of their spikes managed to stay just inside the lines.
“That’s what we’re missing,” said Kraft. “We had some good blocks, but if we can’t touch the ball, we’re just making our libero work her tail off. And she did. She had a great game, so there are these little pieces if they can fall into place, get our hands on some blocks and find our consistent strong hitter.”
Indeed, sophomore libero Maile Lueck was kept busy, finishing the match with 12 digs and committing only one error on 15 chances in receiving opposing serves; another outgoing senior, Kindra Fuller, also added three digs and sophomore Rachel Bailey had two.
But with another year of improvement, and most of the players participating in the sport at the club level, both the coach and players expect to make a deeper run at districts next year, and perhaps qualify for the state tournament.
“I want us to be here next year and win this game, and I don’t see any reason why we can’t,” said Kraft.
As for the outgoing seniors lining up at the net one last time, the match was all about leaving everything they had on the court and having no regrets once it was over, regardless of the result.
“We went hard, and we tried to encourage each other throughout the whole game,” said Marker. “We just went for it, there was nothing to lose.”
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.