This year’s edition of the Class 3A state volleyball tournament at Kennewick’s Toyota Center brought together a Sweet 16 squads, four of which were from the talent-rich, nine-team South Puget Sound League 3A.
One of those four was Enumclaw High, which made the big dance for the fourth consecutive season – certainly no stranger to the blazing intensity that is the state tourney.
Still, considering the roller coaster campaign the Hornets experienced, they seemed to be unlikely guests at the big event. But the fact that they were present said a lot about the Hornets’ character and, specifically, the never-say-die spirit of coach Jackie Carel.
The first team Enumclaw encountered in the pressure cooker was Mount Spokane, a group that was less experienced but a bit more fiery and full of surprises.
The Wildcats entered the tournament with an 11-5 league record, fresh off two post season triumphs over eventual 2008 state winner Shadle Park.
The Wildcats pounced for the Hornets and did not let up, routing Enumclaw 25-15, 25-11, 25-22 before the Hornets seemingly had time to react.
“Everybody knows that any team that makes the state tournament is great,” Carel said. “But (her Hornets) were actually really mad about their performance against Mount Spokane because they felt that they could have done better, and that is why I think they were so determined to be far more focused against Kennedy.”
The Kennedy High Lancers, who had been bushwhacked by a promising Eastside Catholic contingent that ended up losing to Shadle Park in the championship match, looked as though they might suffer a similar fate to Enumclaw. The Hornets won the first two tilts 25-22, 25-21 to put Kennedy in a deep hole.
The Lancers, led by middle hitter Ashley Eneliko, displayed a sense of urgency and showed their mettle for the remainder of the tilt, winning the next two games and then took the finale 15-9 to send Enumclaw packing.
“I was so proud of the girls for the way they came out and stunned Kennedy in those first two contests,” said Carel, whose determined bunch headed to the state show with an overall record of 18-14.
“I think we made a statement in those first couple of games with Kennedy, coming up with great hitting and playing excellent defense,” she said. “We just couldn’t keep that energy level up long enough to polish them off.”
Carel is losing a handful of seniors to graduation, leaving some to wonder if the Hornets’ four-year string of state appearances might be in jeopardy.
“Sure, we are graduating (Gabbi) Sisco, (Chloe) Ramberg, (Britney) Price, (Heather) Hitch, (Elizabeth) Birklid, (Tianna) Hogan and (Rhianna) McLachlin, but who knows….we made it to state this year, when no one thought we had a prayer,” the coach said. “I am glad that I allowed some of the younger players to get in there and sample the fever pitch at which these games are played,” she added, paving the way to being competitive in 2009.