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State bound: Upstart Wildcats reach district finals | Volleyball
She believed in her team's talent. The trick for Oak Harbor High School volleyball coach Kerri Molitor was to get her players to share the feeling.
There is no doubt now as the Wildcats recorded their second straight district tournament upset to earn a spot in the state 3A tournament Friday and Saturday, Nov. 15 and 16, at Saint Martin's University and Timberline High School in Lacey.
Coming off the heals of defeating second-seeded Meadowdale Tuesday, seventh-seeded Oak Harbor clipped third-seeded Everett 3-0 Thursday, Nov. 7, at Meadowdale High School in the district semifinals.
The Wildcats (6-10) face fourth-seeded Ferndale (12-4) in the district championship game at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at Glacier Peak High School in Snohomish. Win or lose, Oak Harbor is on to state.
Ferndale, the only school in the eight-team tournament not from the Western Conference, reached the finals by up-ending top-seeded Mountlake Terrace 3-1 Tuesday.
The Golden Eagles regular season losses this year came against No. 1 ranked 2A Burlington-Edison, fifth-ranked 2A Sehome twice and perennial 1A power Lynden Christian.
Oak Harbor did defeat Ferndale in mid September on the way to winning the Lynden Tournament title.
Molitor said, "I think this puts us at a disadvantage going into (the) match. (The) girls tend to think if they have already beaten a team once, that must mean they will win again. Ferndale is tough. We definitely need to be strong and continue to improve throughout districts in preparation for state."
Everett handled Oak Harbor 3-0 (25-20, 25-15, 25-13) two weeks ago.
Oak Harbor returned the favor 26-24, 25-21, 25-21 at district.
The Wildcats displayed their newfound confidence in the match, pushing aside all adversity.
They jumped to a 5-0 lead in the first game only to fall behind 21-18. No problem. A tip for a point, a kill and an ace by AnnaBelle Whitefoot helped the Wildcats go up 23-22. A tip by Hailey Beecher and two kills by Kayleigh Harper put the match away.
Down 12-7 in the set game, Oak Harbor went on an 11-0 run behind three aces by Amelia Berner and four kills by Harper.
Up 22-13 in game three, Oak Harbor withstood an Everett charge that trimmed the gap to 22-18.
"That was the best we played all year," Molitor said. "We are back to believing in ourselves."
Assistant coach Dan Potter said, "They got a taste of confidence."
Molitor said her team came into the season overconfident. After a string of frustrating losses, doubt took over and the team struggled.
Wins in the final two regular season matches flipped the switch and the confidence current began flowing once again.
"We pulled together and played together," Molitor said. Potter said, "The bench was a huge part of this win."
Molitor said, "The kids were more concerned with success than playing time."
Harper ripped the Seagulls (13-4) with 26 kills, two blocks and 14 digs. Whitefoot finished with five kills and 12 digs, Claire Anderson six kills and seven digs, Makenna Martyn six kills and four digs, Berner five aces and Beecher 40 assists.
Claire Anderson spikes by the block of Everett's Lauren Stiger. Anderson had six kills in the Oak Harbor win.