Vikings take second at State | Volleyball

It took the 2A state volleyball champions to finally break the North Kitsap Vikings' unbeaten record.

POULSBO — It took the 2A state volleyball champions to finally break the North Kitsap Vikings’ unbeaten record.

After about 2.5 months and 23 straight wins, the Vikings lost for the first time this season on Nov. 15 to the Tumwater Thunderbirds in the 2A State Tournament finals. The Vikings won second place at State — its best finish in program history. “This was an incredible team, probably the best in history,” senior captain Sarah Holt said, holding the second-place trophy. “This proves it. This is history.”

The Vikings’ state title run was a memorable one.

The Vikings won a close 3-2 match over Lakewood in the first round of the tournament on Nov. 14. They won 15-7 in the fifth set to advance to the quarterfinals.

The Vikings had an easier time of Woodland in the quarterfinals, winning 3-1 after the fourth set that ended 29-27.

There was an expectation the Vikings would finish at least fourth. The team set out to do better than last year, head coach Tim French said.

“That’s what they were about — [to] surpass what they did last year,” he said.

The 2013 team finished fifth at State. The Vikings and Thunderbirds met in that tournament as well, playing for fifth/sixth. The Vikings won 3-2 after a tough match that went five sets.

Continuing to the semifinals this year, the Vikings took Sehome 3-1. They won the fourth set 25-15 to advance to the finals. Sehome went on to play Selah; Sehome lost and finished in fourth place.

Though the Vikings looked to have the momentum they would need for the championship match, the Thunderbirds proved difficult.

In the first set, the Vikings took an early 2-1 lead. The Thunderbirds tied it up 3-3, but the Vikings pulled away again when they scored twice, making it 5-3.

The Thunderbirds tied again, making it 5-5, and then they were off. Though the Vikings were able to pull within two points of their opponent, they were unable to tie the set up again.

The Vikings lost the set 25-21.

During the second set, the Vikings fell behind early, but pulled ahead after a few mistakes by the Thunderbirds. The Vikings put themselves ahead 6-5 and then a kill by Briar Perez gave them a two-point lead. The Vikings, however, were unable to capitalize on the momentum of a few mistakes made by Tumwater.

Tied 9-9, the Thunderbirds quickly pulled away, scoring eight unanswered points.

With the Thunderbirds up 18-11, the Vikings began returning fire. The Vikings scored four unanswered points, making the set 20-14. Two more unanswered points put them up 21-15.

Though the Vikings were scored two points for every one the Thunderbirds made, they were too far behind. The Thunderbirds won 25-18.

French thought the Thunderbirds might be close to losing steam. Most teams the Vikings faced would begin to tire over the course of the match, French said.

“But they didn’t,” he said. “We tried to crack them.”

The Thunderbirds ran away with the third set. Tumwater was 24-10 and set to finish the championship when the Vikings scored one last point.

On the last serve, Tumwater’s Mackenzie Bowen smashed the ball into Vikings territory. The Vikings were nearly saved by a dig, but the ball careened out of bounds off a defender’s arm, ending the match 25-11.

The Vikings’ season ended 23-1.

“I just couldn’t be more excited about how this went tonight,” Tumwater head coach Tana Otton said. “The reason I love it the most was because everyone contributed on the floor positively. Everybody had one of their best games of the season in the championship match.”

Otton said the Thunderbirds blocked better during the championship then they did all season. After winning a grueling match over Selah the same day, Otton said the Thunderbirds had the mindset they were going to win. “So, I don’t think it mattered who they played,” she said.

Holt said all the teams at State were good.

“Tumwater, they are an amazing team,” she said. “They earned it.”

But the Vikings were in a similar state of mind.

The second-place state trophy was added to the Vikings’ Olympic League and District III championship trophies. Because the Vikings had continuously won and exceeded fourth-place expectations, French thought the Vikings could take the championship.

“I kind of expected to win this match because it was in the cards,” he said.

Despite falling one game shy of being state champions, there was no disappointment for the Vikings.

“I feel an overwhelming sense of pride,” French said.

Even when the Vikings were down two sets and behind 16-8 in the third, they were still trying.

“It just says they have heart,” French said. “They don’t quit. They have a competitive spirit that every coach wants to see in a team.”

The Vikings weren’t without a lack of support from fans, either. Family and friends filled a good portion of the stands, which was common throughout the season. French said even on the road it felt like a home game because of the support from the bleachers.

“This is the best North has ever done,” Holt said. “We are so happy … Getting second place is just incredible.”