Some may have scoffed when Oak Harbor High School volleyball coach Kerri Molitor said her team, winners of only five of 15 matches, had the talent to defeat any team in the league and had a shot at making the state tournament.
Molitor's prediction gained credence when the Wildcats knocked off Meadowdale in a 3-2 thriller in the opening round of the district tournament Tuesday, Nov. 7.
As the Wildcats struggled through the regular season, Molitor said her team could snag a state tournament berth if it could manage to qualify for district.
The Wildcats did, barely, earning the seventh seed out of eight teams. Then they went out and proved Molitor's point, dumping regular-season co-champion and No. 2 seeded Meadowdale (11-4) on the Mavericks' home court.
Now Oak Harbor (6-10) faces third-seeded Everett (13-3) at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, at Meadowdale in the district semifinals.
Everett stopped Oak Harbor 3-0 (25-20, 25-15, 25-13) Oct. 22.
A win will put the Wildcats into the championship game at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at Glacier Peak High School and into the state tournament.
If Oak Harbor loses, it will have to win two straight matches, beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday at Glacier Peak, to qualify for state.
Meadowdale blanked Oak Harbor 3-0 during the regular season, though the individual games were close.
The Wildcats rallied for an 18-25, 25-22, 25-22, 18-25, 18-16 win Tuesday.
After losing the first set, it appeared Oak Harbor was about to mirror its regular season pattern, but the Wildcats toughened and took the next two.
In the final game, Oak Harbor faced match point when it trailed 14-10 but mounted a miracle comeback to eke out the 18-16 win.
Sophomore Priya Osborne, in her first varsity match, made a game-changing dig in the set to swing the momentum, according to Molitor.
The Wildcats received strong performances across the board, led by Kayleigh Harper with 22 kills, eight blocks and 14 digs. Hailey Beecher recorded 41 assists, four aces and nine digs; Claire Anderson six kills and 18 digs; Amelia Berner 10 kills; and AnnaBelle Whitefoot four kills and 12 digs.