NK perseveres in 3-set win over Olympic

The North Kitsap volleyball program has been the West Sound’s most consistent over the past decade, and it’s clear this year’s team will continue that tradition.

But between the graduation of two major four-year contributors and the long gap without competing in major in-season and postseason tournaments, there is still work to be done to get the Vikings back to state this fall.

The 2021 team is led by two seniors and a strong junior class, and they’re ready to be tested in the Olympic League.

“They didn’t get to get pushed at that level,” coach Kaelea Makaiwi said. “This year’s juniors haven’t had that pressure since they were freshman, and we went to state back in 2019.”

The Vikings certainly got plenty to handle Thursday against Olympic. And although they won in straight sets, 25-20, 26-24, 25-21, to run their record to 6-0 on the season, each set was tense and nerve-wracking.

“They are scrappy; they played tough,” Makaiwi said the Trojans.

It was rare for either team to have much of a lead in any of the sets, and when they did, the opposition would quickly storm back. North Kitsap led set one 10-4, but eventually fell behind 14-13. But down the stretch, Elle Fultz recorded three kills and Sophia Baugh added a pair to guide the Vikings to the 25-20 victory.

Set two was also a seesaw battle as Fultz contributed two more kills and Emma Stephens picked up an ace to help erase a 6-3 deficit. But the Vikings trailed late this time and were in dangerous territory as Kaiya Moore and Catherine Meikle led Olympic to a 23-20 lead.

But Emma Gaines picked up a kill that cut the lead to one, and then Gaines and Baugh teamed up for a block that fell in front of Olympic’s defense to tie the set at 23. Maddie Pryde closed out the set with a pair of aces.

Makaiwi was moving her players all around the court in order to get them used to different positions. With depth at middle blocker, she had many of them taking turns on the outside as well.

“Everyone has to pass,” Makaiwi said. “We can’t just rely on two or three players anymore. If they’re playing outside and passing all the way around, they have to learn how to play defense all the way around too.”

It looked like the Vikings might finally have a little breathing room in set three as they took a 20-13 lead on Baugh’s sixth and final kill of the night, but the Trojans refused to fade. Meikle picked up a kill and an ace, and Cassidy Cortez also scored a kill as they cut North Kitsap’s lead to 23-20.

But the night ended with one final spike from Fultz, who finished with a team-high 15 kills for North Kitsap.

Pryde, Gaines and Baugh all finished with six kills. Baugh had 31 assists, while Pryde led the Vikings with 15 digs. Mary Allen had four blocks, Emma Stephens had 12 digs and Lily Pruden finished with nine digs.