In a playoff atmosphere all about momentum, Sequim's Wolves got all they needed at just the right time.
The Wolves rebounded from a third-set deficit to take a two-sets-to-one lead, then blew away a wilting Washington squad 25-5 in the final set to take the West Central District's third and final state 2A playoff berth Saturday evening.
Sequim advances to the state playoffs for the first time since 2004, when the Wolves were a 3A school.
"It's a huge thing (to go to state)," Sequim coach Jennie Webber said. "They may not realize it until they get there. It's a fun place ... and only 16 teams get to go."
Named to the all-Olympic League first team earlier in the week, Sequim senior Megan Zumbuhl came up huge for her team Saturday, blasting 13 kills, eight digs and four aces against the Patriots.
Kari Hankins had 25 assists and Teyloure Ring had seven kills, nine digs and was 14-of-15 on serves in the win.
"I think it was just the momentum (in the fourth set)," Zumbuhl said. "Their passing was pretty good ... but I think it was that we wanted it more. It was pretty obvious."
With district tourney pitting the top three teams from the Nisqually and Olympic leagues, highly ranked North Mason and Fife separated themselves from the pack, leaving Sequim and Washington fighting for the last seed. Washington topped Kingston and fell to North Mason in the opening rounds Nov. 8 while Sequim stopped Eatonville and dropped a semifinal match to Fife.
Through two sets, it looked as if the Wolves and Patriots were headed toward a full five-set match. With the score tied at 22-22 in the opening set, Maddy Zbaraschuk slammed home a kill and Zumbuhl followed with an ace for a two-point lead. Zbaraschuk capped it with a big block and 1-0 lead in sets.
The Patriots responded right back in the second set, taking advantage of a number of Wolves miss-hits for a 25-15 win.
The Patriots held a 19-16 lead in the third set before Sequim's defense stiffened; Ring followed a Patriot miscue with a big kill, and a Washington net error tied the game at 19-19. Sequim's Caitlin Pallai got a block and Ring added an ace to put Sequim up 22-20. After a Washington side-out, Zumbuhl came up huge with back-to-back kills and the set win.
"We've learned to play scrappier," Zumbuhl said. "Our goal was ... just to get (to state). We knew we could get there."
Up a set and needing just one more to win, Sequim didn't need any more incentive to put Washington away taking fourth-set leads of 15-2 and 20-3 before finishing the Patriots off 25-5.
Sequim libero (defensive specialist) Ashley Bourns had two aces and six serves in a row in a crucial 7-0 run in the final set, as Washington's squad looked disjointed and run-down.
"We started right (in that set)," Webber said. "Kari (Hankins) and Ashley got on big streaks. That made a huge difference in the tempo of that game. That's volleyball. It's who has the momentum. It seemed in that last game we had it all."
Zbaraschuk finished with three kills and seven digs.
Webber sees her Wolves return to the state tournament for the first time since 2004, when they went 0-2. (Sequim took eighth at the state 3A tourney in 2002)
The Wolves have been bumped three consecutive times at the West Central District playoffs, meaning not one of Sequim's players on the 2008 roster has experienced a state tourney.
The Wolves take on the undefeated Selah (13-0 in CWAC, 14-0 overall) in the first round. Selah's Vikings are ranked No. 2 in the latest Associated Press poll, one spot behind Lynden, a tough opening game for Sequim.
"I want them to go out there, play hard and have fun ... (and) have the satisfaction of playing their best," Webber said. "That's the best part of it."
Webber said she'd rather the state tournament go back to pool play format instead of the current double elimination set-up. The best teams truly advance that way, she said, rather than a pair of strong schools meeting well before the championship game.
"That's the way volleyball was meant to be played," Webber said.
In the district tourney championship game, North Mason's Danielle Cook (15 kills, eight blocks) led her Bulldogs to a three-set win against Fife (25-17, 25-14, 25-15). North Mason gets Anacortes in the first round of the state 2A tournament while Fife gets
No. 3-ranked Tumwater.
Zumbuhl, 3 others named all-league
Four Sequim Wolves - all seniors - were named to the all-Olympic League team, led by first-teamer Megan Zumbuhl.
Zumbuhl led the Wolves with 115 kills and was second on the team with 74 digs. She was 130-of-145 on serves (89.6 percent).
Wolves Teyloure Ring, Kari Hankins and Diana Earl each earned honorable mention status on the all-league team.
Ring topped the team with 79 digs and had 51 kills. She had 27 aces on 150-of-163 serving.
Hankins led the Wolves with 244 assists and was Sequim's top server during the regular season, connecting on 151-of-160 serves (94.4-percent) and a team-high 32 aces.
Earl, a defensive specialist, was fourth on the team with 59 digs and had 12 aces.
North Mason setter Maci Hunt was named Olympic League Most Valuable Player while twin teammates Danielle and Michelle Cook were named to the first team, along with Olympic's Megan Rainey and North Kitsap's duo Sarah Baugh and Taylor Ottomano.
Port Angeles' Danika Goodwin was named to the all-league second team and teammate Emily Cook was named an honorable mention.
North Kitsap's Tim French was named league Coach of the Year as the Vikings (12-5) took the Olympic Lea gue 3A crown
Kingston and Port Townsend shared the league Sportsmanship Award.
Wolves on to state
Sequim opens the double-elimination class 2A state playoffs at the Toyota Center in Kennewick at noon on Nov. 21 against Selah, the top-seeded team from the Central Washington Athletic Conference. The winner of that game moves on to play the winner of the Hockinson/Burlington-Edison game at 6:30 p.m.; the losing teams from that same game play each other at 9 a.m. the next day in a win-or-go-home contest.