PORT ORCHARD — With the South Puget Sound League volleyball season right around the corner, the South Kitsap players are coming together just in time by picking up wins in their last two matches.
The Wolves’ early-season schedule is typically daunting: This year, they faced Thomas Jefferson, Federal Way and North Kitsap in their first three matches, starting the season 0-3. But then they beat Auburn three sets to one on Sept. 19 and knocked off Olympic in three sets on Tuesday.
“Our league is really tough,” said senior middle blocker Faith Smith. “Being able to play those non-league games really prepares some of the younger girls who haven’t been on varsity get a taste of what it’s like in our league games.”
Against North Kitsap last week, the Wolves suffered from a few too many unforced errors. While the Vikings sure didn’t make life easy on them, hitting, passing and service all could have been cleaner and may have resulted in a more competitive match.
“They were nervous against North because they know a lot of the girls and they have played with and against them,” head coach C.J. Scott said. “So they were a little hyped up.”
However, they have looked like a different team in the last two matches, playing with more confidence and pounding the ball over the net with better passing and sets.
“We played with a lot of energy [in both matches],” Scott said. “We didn’t hit as well as we did today, a few more hitting errors in that match, but our energy was really good and, defensively, we were really good that match.”
The Wolves received contributions from across the lineup against Olympic on Tuesday. Smith led the team with eight kills, and Ashlyn Potz, Fe’Nani Frogge-Mendiola and Mykah Curtis each added four. Potz also added 11 assists and eight digs in her all-around role. Junior setter Hailey Robinson served up 14 assists and libero Lanah Duque had eight digs. Freshman Anna Harvey led the team with three aces.
South Kitsap won the match, 25-19, 25-16, 25-19.
“They’re all pretty equal in ability,” Scott said. “Everyone can play, and that’s a good thing. We’ll get a set lineup once we get into league [play].”
The match was fairly even early on as the two teams went back and forth trading points. The Wolves hit their stride with a 10-4 run in the middle of the first set, capped by a pair of kills by Smith. The defense did a good job of not allowing the Trojans too much momentum, answering quickly each time they scored.
Olympic battled back hard in the second set and the two teams were tied at 15 late. Harvey broke open the set with a kill, followed by a huge block from Smith that landed for a point. Smith scored another kill to close the set, playing error-free ball while taking advantage of Trojan mistakes.
A huge 12-5 run in the third set helped South Kitsap close out the victory.
The team is young this year, with several underclassmen getting significant playing time. Confidence and clean play will be key with perennial powers such as Puyallup, Rogers, Emerald Ridge and Curtis lurking in the distance. South Kitsap hasn’t finished above seventh place since the league formed in 2016. But the youth movement should set up the program well for future seasons.
“I think this year we have better team chemistry,” Smith said. We just need to build experience.”