SILVERDALE — The best and most successful season in Klahowya volleyball history came to an end a little too soon, at least for the liking of the five seniors who closed out their careers on Saturday night.
After an outstanding 14-1 regular season that saw the Eagles close with nine consecutive victories, they entered the 1A District 3 tournament with a chance to be the first team in program history to go to the state tournament.
But they knew their district was chock full of good teams, including last year’s 1A runner-up Charles Wright, which carried an undefeated record in the tournament.
They took a set in each match, but the Eagles fell to both Cascade Christian and Bellevue Christian — two private schools from the Nisqually League — 3-1 to see their season come to an end on their home court.
“It was a phenomenal season,” said senior captain Rachel Bailey. “To end 14-1, to play that well, those games could have gone either way. They were great teams and we hung with them.”
It was the last hurrah for five seniors, including Bailey, the reigning Olympic League 1A MVP and the team’s on-court leader — rarely did a point go by where she didn’t have a quick word of advice or a high-five for a teammate; Maile Lueck, the team’s libero who seemingly has the ability to get to any spike no matter how hard it’s hit; middle blockers Chloe Settle and Sarah Greene and hitter Natalie Wise.
“The five seniors are truly amazing leaders each in their own way,” Kraft said. “It’s always sad to see a group of girls leave. They really wanted it.”
Klahowya dominated its Olympic League 1A opponents Port Townsend and Chimacum, winning every single set over the course of six league matches with the two teams. The Eagles also swept their Olympic League 2A opponents, beating Bremerton, Olympic, Port Angeles, Sequim and North Mason. They also took down Nisqually League team Seattle Christian.
The district tournament, however, offered a far greater challenge, and they opened with Cascade Christian, the only team to best them during the regular season.
After the Cougars opened a 7-2 lead in set one, Klahowya went on a 6-1 run to tie the game at eight, which featured consecutive kills from Katie Cooper, Bailey and Anna Bell. It was a seesaw battle the rest of the way and Cascade Christian finally pulled ahead to take the first set 26-24.
A 7-0 run late in set two propelled the Eagles to a 25-21 victory. Settle, who had a team-high 11 kills, was in the middle of that run with a kill and an ace. Cooper finished the match with 10 kills and Bailey added six.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t quite match the intensity of the first two sets and keep pace with their opponent. Cascade Christian took the last two sets 25-14, 25-17.
In their second match of the day, Klahowya took on Charles Wright Academy, which had earlier been handed its first loss of the season courtesy of eventual district champion Bellevue Christian.
This match largely adhered to the same script. The Eagles came out with plenty of fire and energy, stealing the first set 25-21 and pushing the Tarriers all the way to the end in set two.
“I’m happy how we matched up with Charles Wright,” Kraft said. “I didn’t expect that.”
But after a long, emotional day, Klahowya lost some steam over the second half of the match and then began losing players to injuries. Cooper, Bailey and junior setter Anna Bell all missed time and that allowed Charles Wright to take control, winning the last two sets, 25-19, 25-9. By the end, the Eagles had four substitutes in the game.
Cooper led Klahowya with ten kills, followed by Settle with eight and Bailey with six.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.