Volleyball: Wolves sweep league tourney, earn No. 2 seed at districts

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A bit anti-climactic? Possibly. But Sequim's Wolves got just about everything they wanted from the Olympic League tournament: two wins, the best seed they could get to districts and a bye when they get there.

Sequim begins its run at the West Central District 2A tournament in Tacoma on Saturday against the winner of Friday's Port Angeles-White River opening round match.

With a win, Sequim can clinch a berth at the state 2A tournament.

"Our whole thing is not just to get to state but win at the state tournament," Sequim coach Jennie Webber Heilman said. "We want to be playing our best at the end."

That's what she was hoping to see starting Saturday when Sequim took on Olympic in the first of two Olympic league tourney games in Sequim's Rick Kaps Gymnasium. Sequim topped the Trojans in four sets (25-12, 25-17, 23-25, 25-18), but the Wolves weren't as sharp as they could have been, Webber Heilman said.

"We were kind of moving people around," she said. "I think we got a little complacent."

Sequim's Emma LeBlanc had a run of 12 serves in a row to help build a big lead. Haleigh Harrison led the squad with 18 kills and four blocks, Taylor Balkan had 35 assists, Rylleigh Zbaraschuk had four aces and LeBlanc added 13 digs on defense.

"We let up in the third game and let them take a game off of us but we turned it around in the fourth," Webber Heilman said, noting Zbaraschuk had a 10-point serving streak in the final game.

Sequim advanced to play North Kitsap, which was missing setter Sara Holt. The Wolves took advantage, earning their second sweep of the Vikings for the league tourney title. It wasn't easy after a 25-14 first game, however, as North Kitsap pushed Sequim to 26-24 in game two before falling 25-18 in game three.

Sequim went into the league tourney as the top seed, after winning all eight league contests and finishing the regular season with a 13-1 mark.

Zbaraschuk and LeBlanc had long serving streaks in the first game as Sequim took command.

"We almost let them back in the match in the second game with some passing errors that did not help our offense," Webber Heilman said.

Harrison led the Wolves with 12 kills and four blocks. Besand added seven kills while LeBlanc was 18-of-19 on serves. Caitlin Stofferahn had five kills and Hannah Hudson paced the defense with 14 digs. Balkan fueled the offense with 27 assists, and senior Katelynne McDaniels — one of four seniors playing her final game on the SHS home court — had three assists.

"It hasn't really hit me yet," McDaniels said following the game.

Perhaps that's because the Wolves have plenty of work to do. 

State in sight

The Wolves need just one win to get back to the state tourney. The Wolves advanced to state in 2010 but missed the tourney by one win in 2011, falling to Olympic in five games in a winner-to-state district game.

Sequim lost both matches at state in 2010, dropping a three-game match to Anacortes in the opener and a four-set match to Tumwater in the second round.

"It was insane," McDaniels said of the talent at the state tourney level, "(but) it was still a great experience."

To get there, Sequim may have to play familiar rival Port Angeles. The Roughriders play White River on Nov. 2, with the winner advancing to play Sequim in the double elimination section of districts. A win gives that team at least the No. 6 seed to the state tourney, set for Nov. 9-10 in Tacoma.

Other top district seeds include Fife, Sumner and Washington.

Washington state's 2A classification sees a bit of an oddity this year, as three reigning state champions are vying for a title in 2012: before the season, defending 3A champ West Valley-Yakima dropped down to the 2A ranks while Colville, the 1A champ in 2011, moved up one classification. Burlington-Edison won the 2A title last season.

Closing out with a 'W'

Sequim made quick work of the Roughriders on Oct. 23 to cap a perfect regular season, dominating the Roughriders in three sets (25-13, 25-14, 25-20).

Haleigh Harrison had 18 kills, Taylor Balkan had 29 assists, Alexas Besand had five kills and 13 digs, and Hannah Hudson added 13 digs and two aces. Emily Wallner contributed six kills.

"We pretty much dominated the match," Webber Heilman said. 

"Taylor was putting up some good sets. Our offense was spread out. We had some great digs. P.A. had a hard time passing Taylor and Lex's (Besand's) serves)."
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