ADNA — Six days less than two years ago, the Kalama volleyball team was raising its fourth straight district title in the cozy confines of Adna High’s gymnasium.
On Tuesday, the Chinooks sealed their return trip to the title game on the same court, topping Toutle Lake 25-21, 25-22, 25-23 in the Southwest 2B District semifinals.
Kalama junior Amanda Killinen, who finished with 30 assists, was a key part of that 2016 team, which also won a state title. But even she had a hard time envisioning the squad could get back this fast.
“Honestly, I don’t think (I envisioned this),” Killinen said. “The whole four-headed monster of seniors was a big thing. After that, we got down ourselves a little bit and didn’t think we’d be able to come back, but we did. I’m so proud of my team.”
Led by Kapio Wetmore, who finished with 12 kills and four blocks, the Chinooks diversified their attack. Marlee Vickers chipped in 12 kills and Paige Chinchen added 10 on Tuesday night.
After a perfect run through the Central 2B League, the Chinooks showcased just how dangerous they can be on any given night.
“Overall, I think we’ve got multiple weapons,” Kalama coach Jeni O’Neil said. “The intensity and level they’re playing right now has come night and day from the beginning of the season.”
Looking at the pieces early in the season, O’Neil saw exactly what this group’s potential was, even if it was rough going at times early on.
This wasn’t a rebuild anymore, she said. It was a reload.
“I sat down with my coaches and said ‘How can we make this happen?’” O’Neil explained. “We restrategized and really decided to our up our game and go hard in practice. They rose to the occasion.”
And now the Chinooks are eyeing their fifth district crown in five years when they meet Ocosta — ranked No. 3 in the state by coaches — at 3 p.m. Saturday in Adna. They will make their ninth straight trip to state next week.
For Toutle Lake, it becomes a battle for seeding. The Ducks face the winner of Willapa Valley and Wahkiakum on Saturday, and they know they’ll need a much better effort.
The Ducks struggled passing on Tuesday, coach Don Merzoian noted.
“If you can’t get the ball up the net, you have a hard time with the offense,” he said. “We just can’t find that ‘I’m not going to quit’ attitude. We get a little timid.”
Taylor Gould and Sienna Rudd combined for 18 assists, Kaylee Florek and Nikarra Smith each had nine kills and Casey Wentz finished with nine digs.