YAKIMA — The Castle Rock Rockets may have walked away from Saturday’s Class 1A State Tournament trophy game teary-eyed and with somber spirits, but it was still plenty gratifying to bring home volleyball hardware for the first time since 2012.
“It actually feels really good because last year we came to the Dome but we lost out,” senior Kyndil Kirkendoll said. “It feels good to come in and place.”
The seniors — Kirkendoll, Auna Dolan, Trinity Naugle and Emily Ashby— saw their final prep volleyball match end in a 22-25, 25-18, 13-25, 27-25, 25-13 defeat to Kiona-Benton in the fifth-sixth place game at the Yakima Valley SunDome.
The sixth-place trophy combined with a Trico 1A League title, a Southwest District championship and undefeated regular season certainly give the Rockets a season to remember.
“I’m going to miss them,” said coach Jeana Bayes, struggling to hold back tears. “They’re good leaders; they don’t get frazzled. Of course we’re human and make mistakes, but for this group of kids, I couldn’t be more appreciative of what they’ve offered the team, me, the school. I’ll definitely miss them. They’re good kids, it’s hard to say goodbye to a group you’ve had for four years.”
Castle Rock’s draw was by no means easy, and having to face the eventual state champion King’s in the state quarterfinals Friday ended the team’s title run prematurely.
“I think it’d be nice to get an easier bracket, but we got pushed,” Kirkendoll said. “I think (the returning players) are going to come back with a good experience.”
The Rockets’ goal was to make it to Saturday after failing to advance last season. They can check that box.
They can check the box titled “heart”, too, after taking Kiona-Benton to five sets in the season’s finale after topping Goldendale 20-25, 25-11, 25-20, 25-20 Saturday morning to ensure they’d check another box: the trophy box — or case.
“I think it’s big for the seniors,” Bayes said. “It’s phenomenal for this group. They’ve worked so hard and gave every ounce of effort. When you pull a draw like what we pulled, it’s very difficult. You have to play your best, but I couldn’t be more proud of my seniors and my team. It’s a huge accomplishment for our school, our seniors. We’re excited to come back for next year.”
Dolan finished the final match with 17 kills, 19 blocks and 15 digs, while underclassmen Logann Golden and Ranae Holter combined for 31 digs, eight blocks and five kills. Zoe Naugle added 15 kills with eight blocks, and Rachael Anderson added 15 digs.
The latter four players consist of a returning core eyeing a third straight state berth next season.
“They’ll still have Zoe, and Logann and other players, so they’ll still be doing great next year,” Kirkendoll said. “And Ranae, she helped us a lot this season. Ranae was one of our biggest assets. So they’ll be great.”