Spikers 6-0 in league play

Entering the 2007 volleyball season, Oak Harbor High School head coach Kerri Molitor knew the team was going to be a strong one and a potential contender for the WesCo North championship.

Just one senior graduated from the 2006 team that finished 3-5 in league matches and 7-7 overall, but failed to be a part of the district playoff picture for the second consecutive year.

The last time the Wildcats qualified for the district tournament was in 2004 and prior to that, 11 seasons had gone by since an Oak Harbor team went to the district.

In 2007, the Wildcats have returning seniors Kristine Martinez, Janay Baeyen, Becca Wheeler, Clair Thiel and Allison Cowan on the roster, along with juniors Kim Mowbray, Jennifer Jansen and Jessica Muzzall who were also varsity players in 2006.

When you know you have a talented team, a coach has to make it a point never to tell the players just how good they are.

Instead, coaches stress funda-

mental play, taking the season one game at a time and not looking too far ahead, being confident but not overconfident and eliminating as many unforced errors as possible.

That’s exactly how coach Molitor has approached this season and save for a non-league loss to Meadowdale, Oak Harbor has been successful.

The Wildcats opened WesCo North League play Sept. 27 with a scary 3-2 victory over Cascade, a team they’d defeated 3-0 in a non-league match to open the season, and have rolled over the competition since then.

So far, Oak Harbor has not lost a game to a league opponent, defeating Arlington, Snohomish, Everett and Stanwood by identical 3-0 scores.

Thursday’s match against Lake Stevens was no exception.

Moved to the court at North Whidbey Middle School due to parent-teacher conferences, the Wildcats once again dominated their opponent and soundly defeated the Vikings 25-15, 25-16 and 25-22.

“It was kind of weird playing in this gym, but that’s okay,” coach Kerri Molitor said. “We’ll play anywhere.”

The first game started out to

be a close one until junior Kim

Mowbray served two points to

put Oak Harbor in the lead and Jessica Muzzall, with help from kills by Clair Thiel and Jennifer Jansen, served for a 7-3 lead.

Lake Stevens fought back to tie the score 9-9 before the Wildcats’ front line stepped up to the line and surrendered just six additional points the rest of the way for a 25-15 victory.

Jansen had 14 kills in the match and Mowbray added seven blocks.

“Coach was working the middle players really hard in practice Wednesday night and it helped our play a lot,” Mowbray said.

Lake Stevens scored the first point of the second game and then Oak Harbor’s overpowering strength on the front line took over.

The Wildcats reeled off nine straight points and were never challenged, cruising to a 25-16 win.

Unforced errors made the beginning of the third game interesting as the Vikings raced out to a 6-1 lead.

Oak Harbor pulled things together and a Thiel kill tied the score 12-12.

Mary Ryan followed with another kill to put the Wildcats ahead to stay and Mowbray tipped down the game winner for a 25-22 victory.

“I think this win puts us in the district playoffs,” Molitor said. “We met a goal and now we have to reevaluate and see what our next goal is. We’d really like to go in that number-one spot and we need to win next week. We have Marysville and Monroe, and it’ll be fun.”

Muzzall had nine kills and Becca Wheeler had 31 assists.

We knew we could do it

Oak Harbor’s players said they thought right from the beginning of the season the team would be in a position to reach the district playoffs.

“We’re 6-0 and we’re going to the district,” Thiel exclaimed. “We’re going to go all the way. We want to go all the way.”

“We worked hard for this all season,” senior Kristine Martinez added.

Oak Harbor has been on a roll in recent WesCo North matches and has taken no prisoners.

“We won our last four matches 3-0, so we have now won 12 straight games,” Jansen said.

Senior Janay Baeyen said she really thought the team would be undefeated at this point of the season.

“We’ve played together for so long and we have good team chemistry,” she said. “We get along really well.”

Wheeler, also a senior and a three-year varsity player, said the Wildcats were ranked in the upper one-half of the league before the season started.

“We were up there with like Monroe, Snohomish and Marysville-Pilchuck,” she said. “We started the season off kind of rough, but we keep improving every game and getting better and better, and we’re going to the district.”

The Wildcats have a pair of difficult games against the two other top teams in the league next week.

The team travels to Monroe for a 7:30 p.m. match on Tuesday against the undefeated Bearcats, and hosts the 5-1 Marysville-Pilchuck Tomahawks at 7 p.m. Thursday.

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