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Volleyball: Wolves win districts, set for state 2A tourney
A great start followed by a minor sputter, finishing with a flourish.
Sequim's volleyball squad is headed back to state after sweeping aside three foes in similar style at the West Central District 2A tournament Saturday in Tacoma.
In all three matches, Sequim dominated the first game, dropped the second, and rebounded to take games three and four.
"I'm not sure what it was," Sequim coach Jennie Webber Heilman said. "I used the same lineup as the first game (each time)."
It all adds up to a top seed to state, which puts Sequim back in Tacoma for a first round match against Steilacoom at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 9 at Pierce College.
Sequim secured a state berth right away Saturday morning, topping White River 25-13, 16-25, 25-17 and 25-16. The Hornets advanced after edging out Port Angeles the evening before, and Webber Heilman said Sequim thought it might have a good chance to rout White River after handling Port Angeles easily in the regular season.
"We really don't know going in — we don't get to see those teams over there much — (but) we came out roaring in that first game," she said.
With 14 aces, Sequim set the pace on serves and made the Hornets work plenty on defense.
"They just keep the ball in play — they were pretty scrappy," Webber Heilman said. She noted that libero Hannah Hudson led a strong Sequim defensive effort.
With the win in hand — and any pressure to qualify for state dissipated — Sequim battled Fife in a district semifinal. Again, Sequim took the first game, dropped the second, then outlasted a hard-hitting Trojan team 25-19, 17-25, 25-23 and 25-19.
Haleigh Harrison had 25 kills, including nine in the deciding game.
Hudson had 24 digs to pace the defense.
"We kind of had a game plan against Fife and they couldn't deal with it," Webber Heilman said, noting that the Wolves served to the Trojan setter in the back row, forcing a bigger front line player to set the ball. On offense, Harrison and company made use of tips and shorter hits to undo Fife's attack, one based on sisters Eva and Lara Linden.
"Our defense was better than theirs; Hannah was a digging fool," Webber Heilman said. "They were pretty pumped about getting to the finals."
The championship match pitted Sequim against Washington, with the Wolves coming away with another four-set victory (25-21, 18-25, 25-21, 25-22).
With the Patriots handling Sequim's serve — thee Wolves recorded just six aces — Harrison and setter Taylor Balkan led the charge on offense. Harrison tallied 25 kills in the win.
"She (Harrison) was our force at the net. She and Taylor were working really well together," the Sequim coach said.
Webber Heilman also credited senior Rylleigh Zbaraschuk with strong serves and Alexas Besand, Kate Harker and Emily Wallner with hard hits to give Sequim some variations on offense.
Webber Heilman also pointed out that sophomore Emma LeBlanc had a solid tourney.
"She was digging balls right and left," Webber Heilman said of LeBlanc. "She really held it together, especially for her first year on varsity."
After Saturday's conquests, Webber Heilman and the Wolves began prepping for the class 2A state volleyball tournament, set this year for Nov. 9-10 at Pierce College and Lakes High School in Tacoma.
Sequim opens the tournament against Steilacoom, the No. 6 seed out of Sequim's own West Central District.
The winner of that match takes on either Mark Morris — which Sequim beat earlier this season — or defending 1A state champ Colville at 8:15 p.m.
Sequim's Wolves are back in the state tourney after a one-season absence.
There they'll take on a tough field that includes 2011 state champions West Valley-Yakima (3A), Burlington-Edison (2A) and Colville (1A).
Other top challengers include highly ranked squads such as Tumwater, Anacortes, Selah, Capital (Olympia) and East Valley-Yakima.
While some of the top teams are in Sequim's half of the bracket, many of the perennial top squads — West Valley-Yakima, Burlington-Edison and Selah — are on the other side, a fact not lost on the Sequim coach.
"We got a good draw (and we've) got to take advantage of it," Webber Heilman said. "We're happy not to play Selah."
Selah knocked Sequim out of the first round in 2008, the consolation round in 2004 and the consolation final in 2002.
Sequim qualified for the state 2A tournament in 2008 and 2010 but went 0-2 in both appearances. The Wolves haven't won a match at state since 2002, when they competed in the 3A ranks.
Sequim's best finish at state is second place at the 1983 3A tourney; the Wolves were third at state in 1985.
"It's going to be good for the girls — they want to go over there and place in the tournament," Webber Heilman said. "They're pretty pumped."
Reach Michael Dashiell at email@example.com.