Poised Viking spikers reach districts

POULSBO — If the Viking volleyball players had a lot on their minds during Thursday’s match with Capital, they didn’t let it show.

POULSBO — If the Viking volleyball players had a lot on their minds during Thursday’s match with Capital, they didn’t let it show.

Even though the match was the first of the league playoff; even though a berth in district competition was on the line; and even though coach Clay Blackwood had vowed to dye his hair purple with a win, the Vikings still tore through the Capital Cougars 15-7, 15-2.

Tournament play games are best of three, not the usual best of five, so the two games were enough to propel the Vikings to districts.

“It was one of the most important matches of the year,” said senior Tara Smyth.

The first game wasn’t easy for the Vikings. The Cougars came out fighting.

The Vikings started the game by gaining a 4-1 advantage; an Amber Markwick ace, a block of Capital’s Gabi Gonzales by Katie Cortner and Adrienne Carter; and a booming Carter hit from a Markwick set all contributed to the run.

But the Cougars clawed back. Capital gained a pair of points back when Alison Maclean and Stephanie Jackson met NK’s Liz Tomsyck at the net; a Meghan Griswald serve bounced among several Vikings until it fell. And North’s lead had been cut to one, 4-3.

The Vikings surged again. With Carter serving, Sheena Brundage elevated and slam-dunked a ball through the Capital defense. Two serves later, Carter bounced a perfect serve between the end line and the Capital defense to give the Vikings a 7-3 lead.

With Carter still serving, the Vikings widened the gap further. Carter landed another ace; a Brundage tip fell. And North’s lead was 10-3.

Capital broke the serve and managed a brief comeback, managing to come back to 11-7.

But after a brief flurry of side outs, the Vikings again increased their lead; a Tara Smyth tip made it 13-7, and a few moments later an Amber Markwick serve gave the Vikings the first-game win, 15-7.

But if the first game was hard-fought by the Vikings, the second was sublime.

It didn’t start that way. Capital won serve and reeled off two quick points. With the Cougars holding a 2-0 lead, it seemed like the second game would be a long one for the purple-clad Vikings.

It wasn’t. The Vikings broke serve, then dominated. Two quick points ate up the lead, and the Vikings surged ahead; a Brundage punching save, a pair of smashes by Katie Cortner, a leaping hit by Amber Markwick … the Vikings could seem to do no wrong as the lead zoomed to 5-2, then 10-2, then 13-2.

Tara Smyth put a pair of punctuation marks on the game as she served the last two points.

The first serve kissed the Capital sideline without a Cougar coming near it.

North’s lead was 14-2.

The second serve was a smash. Capital’s Gabi Gonzales lurched, dove for it, and missed, hitting the floor as the ball bounced past for the Vikings win.

North had turned a 2-0 deficit into a 15-2 victory.

“We played our hardest,” Smyth said of the second game. “We didn’t lose momentum at all, and we didn’t let ourselves get down.”

Coach Blackwood promised to dye his hair purple if the Lady Vikings pulled out the win.

He considered the prospect after the game.

“It’s real dye, too,” he said.

Still, Blackwood was thrilled with the win. He was especially proud of the effort of Markwick, his setter, who he said made excellent decisions; of Katie Cortner, who had an excellent evening of making big shots; and of Sheena Brundage, who had a dominant game at the net to help give the Vikings the win.

Adrienne Carter had 10 digs and a pair of blocks for the Vikings. Brundage had nine kills and 13 digs. Cortner had three kills.

“They put the ball away when they need to pit it away. They made smart decisions,” Blackwood said.

The Vikings will next play at 10 a.m. this morning at Lincoln High School to determine the seeding they will receive in districts (the lowest they can get is sixth).

And Blackwood will be looking for hair dye.

If the change in appearance means success for the team, Blackwood said, he has no problem at all with it.

“I’ll take it,” he said. “I’ll take it.”