Wildcats to take in state experience / Volleyball

Going to the state tournament will be a special experience for her team, according to Oak Harbor High School volleyball coach Kerri Molitor. She knows because she has been there.

As a high school player, Molitor, then Kerri Short, helped Oak Harbor qualify for three straight state tournaments, including the first in school history in 1982. That began the glory years of Oak Harbor volleyball. Under the direction of coach Darlene Brasch, the Wildcats secured eight state berths in a 10-year period.

Since then, Oak Harbor has reached state only three times, 2010, 2013 and this fall.

“It was so fun to be part of that, to experience that,” Molitor said. “Just knowing you were on a team that qualified for state is something special. You work hard for it.”

Going to state is a new experience for the current team, but senior Ceirra Dean echoed some of Molitor’s words when describing what she felt when earning the state berth with a win in last Saturday’s district tournament: “It felt like everything we ever worked for — all the practices, all the games, all the goals — got us to where we wanted to be.”

The success of this year’s team can be traced back to its positive chemistry, according to sophomore Annie Salinger.

“We have bonded and have become very close,” Salinger said. “We rely on each other and trust each other; everyone has each other’s back.”

“Honestly, we all feel part of the team,” Dean added. “Everyone has a part.”

Senior Maekaila Divinagracia said, “We all play for each other.”

She added, “It is really exciting going to state for the first time.”

Senior captain Cami Bristow said several factors have led to the Wildcats’ success and will help them be competitive at state.

One is the team’s many offensive weapons.

“We can set to any hitter, not just one,” she said.

The other is the team’s mental toughness.

“We always fight through,” Bristow said. “It’s our mindset.”

Oak Harbor opens the state tournament at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, the Yakima SunDome against Vancouver’s Prairie High School.

Regardless of the outcome of the tournament matches, “we will have the memories,” Divinagracia said.

“All the bus rides and the connections we built together, those are the important things.”

Molitor would agree.