BETHEL — With North Kitsap now a member of the Narrows League, the Vikings volleyball team was promised more of a taste of competition from across the water this season.
At the West Central District competition this weekend, that taste proved to be a bitter pill.
The Vikings ran into three tough opponents — Bellarmine Prep, Kentridge, and defending state champions Kentlake. The Vikings’ three opponents had a combined 45-15 record, and they proved why, sweeping the Vikings out of the tournament after just one day of competition.
Kentwood eventually took first place in districts; Kentridge took second.
The closest the Vikings came to winning a match were 15-7 scores managed against Bellarmine, their first opponent of the day, and Kentridge, their last.
The Vikings fell to Bellarmine 15-7, 15-6; to Kentlake 15-5, 15-1; and to Kentridge, 15-7, 15-5.
“We just didn’t have our game,” said head coach Clay Blackwood, who helped guide the Vikings to a 14-2 overall record this season (4-2 in league). “Everything was just off.”
Blackwood was heartened, however, by the fact that the Vikings played great defense in districts, racking up 24 total blocks and 54 total digs.
He said, “We played great defense. But there was almost too much defense we had to play.”
•NK vs. Bellarmine:
The Vikings were on the defensive early in the tournament, which was held at Bethel High School. They set up across the net from Bellarmine Prep without all-league player Sheena Brundage, who had forgotten her uniform and was not eligible to play. As the uniform was rushed to Bethel (Brundage would play in the second game against Bellarmine), her teammates fell behind in the first game, as Bellarmine rolled to a 9-1 lead.
The Vikings fought back. An Angela Kramer hit past a pair of defenders, an Adrienne Carter tip that found the floor, and a Liz Tomsyck ace all helped the Vikings come back to 13-6.
But Bellarmine surged past them to take the first game, 15-6.
Brundage returned for the second game, and her impact was felt right away. Bellarmine’s Anna Colleran served the first serve of the game, but the Vikings handled it well, as Kramer passed to Amber Markwick, Markwick set the ball for Brundage, and Brundage leaped and slammed it through Bellarmine’s defense to cause a side out.
But the momentum didn’t hold. Bellarmine again built a large lead (at one point it was 6-0), and while the Vikings mounted a brief comeback, Bellarmine won 15-6 to take the match.
•North Kitsap vs. Kentlake:
Things didn’t get much easier for the Vikings, who next had to contend with the defending state champion Kentlake Falcons, who had not lost in 54 matches.
The Vikings hung with the Falcons early; Brundage and Kramer served up aces, and at one point the Falcons’ lead was only 7-4.
But from there the Falcons showed the defense, passing and power that made them state champions. Kentlake’s Kristen Pasley met Viking Tara Smyth at the net, earning a block and another Falcon point. Pasley then aced a ball past a pair of diving defenders. And Kasey Welch’s leaping tip fell, giving Kentlake the first-game win, 15-5.
While the Vikings fought hard in the second game, the Falcons kept their streak alive. Pasley served up several aces, Cameron Flunder had several leaping smashes, and the Vikings were defeated 15-1.
•North Kitsap vs. Kentridge:
Despite their two losses in pool play, the Vikings still had a chance to force a playoff for the second day if they beat the Chargers. With a win, the Vikings would be locked into a three-team tie (at 1-2) and the teams would have to play a mini-tournament to determine the winners.
The Vikings fought hard — Brundage served up an ace, Smyth made a diving save — but Kentridge constructed an early 5-1 lead and didn’t let go. A combination of aces and timely blocks gave Kentridge the first game, 15-7.
The Vikings’ effort didn’t wane in the second game. Markwick dove to the floor to save one ball; Brundage’s two-handed tip fell and narrowed Kentridge’s lead.
But the Chargers piled up the points, and a Sarah Sommerman leaping smash gave Kentridge the game and the match.
It also ended the Vikings’ season.
Markwick, one of the team’s seniors (along with Smyth, Kramer, Meghan Bartholomew, and Jessica Keller) said, “I didn’t know what to expect (in the tournament). We’ve never played these teams before.”
Despite the losses, Markwick said she is proud of the team.
“We got along. We worked hard. We had a team that wanted to win,” she said.
In the end the Vikings, and their fans, were undeterred.
After a long team meeting in the hallway of Bethel High School, the team finally opened the door to the commons, where the dozen parents and siblings who had made the trip to Bethel were waiting.
And despite the first-day exit, they showered the Vikings with the loudest cheers that had been heard that day.