POULSBO — As five-time defending league champions, the Vikings aren’t used to having to look up at another team in the standings.
Coming into 2019, North Kitsap had an astonishing 63-1 league record in the prior five seasons, its only loss coming to Olympic in 2016. But even that year, the Vikings were able to rebound and capture the league title with a 13-1 record.
For just the second time during that run of dominance, North Kitsap lost a league match, 5-2 to Sequim on March 27. As of press time, Sequim held an 8-0 league record while North Kitsap sits in second place at 7-1.
The Vikings are hoping for a similar turnaround this year after that loss to the Wolves.
“I think, personally, losses are good if you can learn from them,” said head coach Jordan Prince. “This obviously puts us in a tough spot to get a league title. With that said I think we have a lot of players that can compete in league and district and state, and for a lot of them it makes them more hungry.”
Both teams have plenty of talent, but Prince felt Sequim wanted it a little more that day, something that will hopefully motivate his team to return the favor during their next match on April 24.
“They’re just a little more seasoned than us,” Prince said. “They have a lot of seniors, they’ve played with each other a lot, they have really good chemistry, their coach really works well with them, he’s a really good coach.”
But the loss shouldn’t dampen anyone’s spirits.
North Kitsap has always been a fun team to watch and this year is no different. Over the past four years, fans were treated to the journey of Danya Wallis going from incoming freshman to the first four-time state tennis champion in Kitsap history.
Wallis is in college now, but another supremely-talented ninth grader has made her way onto the courts at NKHS.
Karly Rojas, a superb baseline player with plenty of firepower in her swing and outstanding fundamentals, is already looking like a league, district and perhaps even state title contender. Prince believes Rojas has the potential to be every bit as good as Wallis, which should excite fans of the program.
“I’ve been so impressed with how she’s played this year,” Prince said. “She’s come in and taken care of business every single match, and convincingly so. She’s a really impressive player.”
The team is also fortunate to have “probably the two best female athletes” at North Kitsap, as Prince put it, in Riley Rabedeaux and Noelani Barreith.
Rabedeaux, best-known as the volleyball team’s outside hitter, will serve as one of the top singles players. Barreith, a three-sport athlete, is an excellent doubles players who will pair with another all-around solid senior in Geneva Newell.
Also on the doubles side are the pairings of Grace Hansen and Jamison Jacobson, and Jessica Raper and Rachael Griffel. Prince said one or more of these teams should be a factor in the postseason this year.
“They have the talent,” Prince said. “Can they put it all together and come up with a winning strategy?”
But before the postseason kicks off, North Kitsap will try to grab at least a share of a league title, which would give the program its sixth in a row.
Aside from Sequim, the Vikings have sliced and diced their way through league play with little trouble, other than close 4-3 matches with North Mason and Olympic. They also beat a good Kingston team 5-2 on opening day and dispatched another solid squad in Port Angeles, 6-1.
With Sequim’s win over Olympic on March 28, the league championship will likely be decided when the Vikings travel up to the Olympic Peninsula to play the Wolves in late April. In order to win a title outright, they will need some help.
“I think it’s neck-and-neck between us, Oly and Sequim,” Prince said. “We’re three really good teams and it’s fun, I love it. Good competition makes everybody better.”