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YAKIMA — Walking into the SunDome, the goal is always a state title. Sometimes that goal hits a road block.

Kalama, Wahkiakum and Naselle accomplished their secondary goals here Friday, bringing home hardware and smiles.

Kalama finished sixth in the 2B State Championships, Wahkiakum placed eighth, and Naselle finished seventh in Class 1B. Toutle Lake was eliminated early Friday in the consolation bracket.

“Bringing home hardware is a good place to be,” Kalama coach Jeni O’Neil said. “Top six, especially after a rough start to the season and questioning whether we were even going to get here. … I’m not disappointed, and the best thing about this is that we have a super young team.”

Kalama was knocked out of the winners’ bracket Thursday following a loss to Mossyrock, the eventual state runner-ups. The Chinooks’ 11-player roster includes only two seniors and three juniors, all of whom Kalama benefitted from being in the state title game two years ago.

“Just being here in the SunDome, where it’s loud and there’s courts going, when you come in as a freshman or sophomore and have never been, it’s a little overwhelming,” O’Neil said. “It takes a little while to get used to that. So I think having a team who’s been here before and kind of know what to expect will help in a couple of years”

Wahkiakum’s roster benefits equally, though the Mules’ eighth-place finish wasn’t the initial objective, the roster includes seven underclassmen who bring home a valuable and unforgettable experience.

“I’m proud of the way my girls worked this tournament,” Mules coach Kayli Hurley said. “A lot of people didn’t expect us to do as well as we did and we love coming in as an underdog anyway.”

The final match of the season against Northwest Christian, a 3-1 defeat, was one with plenty of grit. It was also the only Wahkiakum match that didn’t go five sets this week, and the dogged group provided plenty of evidence of a potential return next season.

“If you’ve never experienced the dome and you come in for your first time as a young kid, it’s really intimidating,” Hurley said. “Often times it doesn’t turn out so well. So it’s huge for them to be able to come and experience this.”

The Mules fell to Tri-Cities Prep in the first round, but beat Asotin and then Ocosta to earn a trophy. The experience of dropping an opener but clawing back right after could pay huge dividends — not just for the team, but also as a simple life lesson.

“That’s kind of the heart and soul of our program, that whole emotional piece,” Hurley said. “We live and die by the emotion of this game. There’s nothing like volleyball in that emotion plays such a huge role. So those girls work really hard to try and move forward and go to the next play and keep things positive and support each other. My seniors have done a really good job of teaching the younger players that.”

Naselle, which also fell in the opening round, charted its energy to move forward. A loss to Selkirk just before noon Thursday wasn’t going to throw the Comets off trajectory, and the team finished with a sweep of Tacoma Baptist to finish seventh in the 1B tournament. The sweep at the end may have been the most important part of the experience for a group of seven Naselle seniors.

“That was their goal at the beginning of the game,” coach Rebekah Wirkkala said. “Coming up short in the first match and not winning, their goal was to not do that roller coaster thing and sweep.

“It was a statement, a statement of ‘We’re better than how we played.’”

The Comets beat Concordia Christian late Thursday evening in four sets, then swept Neah Bay early Friday morning.

Kalama’s loss to Brewster in the final match was scored 25-17, 25-20, 25-17. Sophomore Marlee Vickers finished with nine kills and 16 digs, senior Kapio Wetmore tallied six kills, and freshman Paige Chinchen chipped in five kills with 12 digs. Senior Taylor Tabor had 12 digs.

In the Chinooks’ sweep of Kittitas on Friday morning, which was scored 25-20, 25-12, 25-13, Wetmore had a breakout match for the tournament with 19 kills, Chinchen had eight kills with 10 digs, while Vickers had three kills and 14 digs.

Wahkiakum’s final match was scored 25-17, 19-25 25-16, 25-20. Ellie Leitz had 13 kills, Macie Elliott finished with nine kills and 11 digs, Solana Stanley and Mckensi Fluckiger each had 10 digs and MJ Neves finished with 24 assists.

Naselle’s sweep of Tacoma Baptist was scored 25-15, 25-20, 25-14. Taylor Gudmundsen tallied 20 assists and 12 digs, Holly Disch had nine kills with nine digs, and Kenzie Glenn finished with six aces.

Toutle Lake’s tournament run came to an end following a 25-19, 23-25, 25-18, 19-25, 13-15 loss to Brewster.

“We went five games and were competitive, but we couldn’t put the ball down when we needed to,” TL coach Don Merzoian said. “The girls had a good run, but we hoped to make it to the trophy round. Despite that, they worked really hard and played some tough matches.”

Nikarra Smith paced the Ducks with 22 kills and 15 digs, and Jordyn Grabenhorst added nine kills and 16 digs. Kaylee Florek had seven kills and served 100 percent, Taylor Gould had four kills, 11 assists, four aces and eight digs, Marissa Smith had four kills, Casey Wentz made 17 digs, and Sienna Rudd had 19 assists and had perfect serving.

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Sports Reporter

Jason is a journeyman sports reporter who has covered the Golden State Warriors, Oakland A's, along with a heavy emphasis on the Oakland Raiders. He comes to Cowlitz County from Oakland, Calif. and is a loving father.

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