Overcoming a loss in the semifinals of the District 1 3A volleyball tournament, Oak Harbor High School powered past Everett 3-1 Saturday, Nov. 10, at Marysville-Pilchuck High School to earn a berth in the state tournament.
The state tournament is Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16 and 17, at Yakima’s SunDome.
The Wildcats (13-4) open at 1:30 p.m. Friday against Vancouver’s Prairie High School. The Falcons (14-3), co-championships of Greater St. Helens League, were ranked sixth in the final state coaches poll. Oak Harbor dropped out of the state poll after several mid-season losses.
Win or lose, Oak Harbor will play a second match Friday in the 16-team, double-elimination tournament.
Oak Harbor and Prairie will meet the winner or loser of Mountain View (15-4) and Lakeside (16-6).
Mountain View of Vancouver shared the GSHL title with Prairie, and seventh-ranked Lakeside of Seattle finished first in the Mountain Division of the Metro League.
Oak Harbor last qualified for the state tournament in 2013. That season the Wildcats were a Cinderella team. They went into the district tournament seeded sixth but finished second and went on to take sixth at state.
Oak Harbor 3, Everett 1
The Wildcats displayed no hangover from a tough semifinal loss to Snohomish two days earlier.
Oak Harbor blasted Everett early, winning the first set 25-14. The Wildcats also dominated the early stages of the second game and withstood a late Seagull surge to win 25-21.
Everett used that late-set momentum to take the third game 26-24; Oak Harbor regained control and claimed the fourth set 25-21.
“The girls had a more focused attitude (than in Thursday’s loss),” coach Kerri Molitor said. “We reduced some of our errors.”
“The girls played for each other,” she added. “That’s when we play our best.”
The team also received a lift from its fans.
“We feed off that support,” Molitor said. “We want to win for everybody, not just for ourselves.”
The Wildcats received strong performances from everyone, Molitor said, including the bench. She lauded the play of reserves Maekaila Divinagracia and Annie Salinger.
Molitor liked the defensive work of Divinagracia, particularly covering the tip, which gave Oak Harbor problems in the loss to Snohomish.
Salinger came in cold to serve late in the fourth game and provided an ace during a critical 4-0 Wildcat run.
Molitor also praised the play of senior captain Cami Bristow, a four-year varsity player.
“Cami was very determined; it has been a goal of hers for four years to make state,” Molitor said. “She stepped up.”
A series of Everett errors helped Oak Harbor jump to a 9-3 lead in the first game. Five kills by Morgan Pease and two kills and an ace from Bristow kept the Seagulls at bay, never allowing Everett to get closer than five points.
The first stage of the second set was close. Oak Harbor found soft spots in the Seagull defense as Jasmine Ford (twice), Pease and Bristow all tipped for points to push the Wildcats to a 9-8 lead.
With Payton Parks serving, Oak Harbor went on 7-0 run behind three kills from Pease to take control.
The Wildcats led 21-12, then Everett rallied to trim the gap to 23-21. Two kills by Leielle Salinger then finished off the Seagulls.
In the third game, Oak Harbor overcome a four-point deficit to go up 20-18. From there, neither team lead by more than one until Everett claimed the set 26-24.
Oak Harbor zipped to a 4-1 lead in the fourth game, but Everett countered to go up 13-10, and the Wildcats tied it at 14.
With Oak Harbor leading 19-18, Annie Salinger entered to serve. Pease and Parks registered kills, Salinger served an ace and Everett had a hitting error, giving the Wildcats a 23-18 lead.
A kill by Pease and a block from Pease and Parks helped close out the match and wrap up the state berth.
Pease finished with 21 kills, 14 digs and 3.5 blocks; Leah Quidachay had 44 assists, 15 digs, a block and two aces; Bristow added nine kills, four aces and 24 digs; Leielle Salinger collected 13 kills and four blocks; and Ceirra Dean had 22 digs.