POULSBO — North Kitsap may have swept its inter-district rival Kingston in three sets, but the score doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story.
At no time did either team lead a set by more than five points, and each set saw multiple lead changes. And the two teams scrapped and battled for every point they scored.
The match boiled down to a few big plays made at key moments, perhaps none bigger than Maddie Pruden’s run of kills at the end of set two.
With the Vikings down 22-20 in set two, their newest Washingtonian, by way of Kansas and Utah, scored four of her team’s final five points to turn the tide of the set, ultimately winning it 26-24. Pruden put her powerful left arm on display as she began spraying spikes all over the court that the Bucs could not dig out.
Pruden finished the match with seven kills, and Riley Rabedeaux led North Kitsap with eight. That run saw the Vikings finally get into a good offensive rhythm.
“Early in the match, we weren’t getting them the ball,” North Kitsap head coach Tim French said. “I think we were trying to be too tricky and finessing instead of just pounding it.”
Kingston threatened to pull away again in set three after overcoming a 13-8 deficit. One of Ava McCabe’s match-high 13 kills gave the Bucs a 21-20 lead as they hoped to force at least a fourth set. Melanie Borson later gave the Bucs a 25-24 lead.
“We’re a very athletic team. We can hit with anybody,” Kingston head coach Ed Call said. “That’s a big team. They can hit, they can block and we can hang with them. Not a bad place to be.”
After Taylor Clodfelder tied the game at 25, North Kitsap got one final big play from its libero, Lexi Belinski. She made an impressive diving stab at a spike by Morgan Halady. The ball went up in the air and Noelani Barreith passed the ball over to Rabedeaux for the final point of the night and a 25-21, 26-24, 27-25, three-set win.
The Bucs pushed the Vikings in a way they rarely had been last year during the regular season. North Kitsap largely cruised through the league schedule and the league tournament before getting to districts and state. But with the graduation of seven players from that team, an improved Olympic League will help the team be better prepared for the playoffs, French said.
“We usually have enough come back that have been there … they need to feel it, they need to live so they understand the level they need to play at,” French said.
Kingston now has three losses in league play, two to North Kitsap and one to second-place Sequim. But this mirrors the situation the Bucs were in last season. Entering the Olympic League tournament as the No. 3 seed, they surprised the field and ended up getting the No. 2 seed for the district tournament.
With some mid-season adjustments just now taking root, Call is optimistic about his team’s postseason chances.
“We’ve done our data analysis, and we see where our holes are and have made some adjustments,” he said. “This was day two of that [lineup of] six in those places, and we’ve just entered the conversation. I like that.”
North Kitsap 3, Kingston 0
25-21, 26-24, 27-25
Kills — Rabedeaux 8, Pruden 7, Barreith 7, Clodfelder 5.
Assists — Carver 13, Leage 10.
Digs — Rabedeaux 20, Barreith 14, Belinski 8.
Aces — Belinski 3.
Blocks — Boop 7, Clodfelder 6.
Kills — McCabe 13, Halady 11, Young 6.
Assists — Hentzel 36.
Digs — McCabe 15, Young 9, Call 8.
Aces — Halady 2.