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3A Prep Volleyball

3A High School Volleyball: Kelso wins 2 of 3, still in trophy hunt at 3A state tournament

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Kelso volleyball Lucy Hight 11.17

Kelso senior Lucy Hight delivers a shot against the block attempt of Gig Harbor in the Hilanders' third match of the day in the 3A state tournament Thursday, Nov. 17. Kelso won two of its three matches giving itself a chance to finish as high as seventh in the tournament.

YAKIMA — Feeling overlooked and disrespected after being tabbed as the No. 15 seed, the Hilanders out-performed expectations by winning two of their three matches on Thursday at the 3A state tournament in the Yakima Valley SunDome.

Kelso capped its day with a drag out three-set win over the 7-seed Gig Harbor by scores of 25-23, 25-17 and 26-24. The win moved the Hilanders forward in the bottom half of bracket where it has a chance to finish as high as seventh place with two more wins Friday.

The Hilanders will start off the final day of their season by playing Lynnwood at 12:45 p.m. A win will allow them to bring home a trophy as either the seventh or eighth best 3A volleyball team in the state.

Senior hitter Presley Nippert was outstanding for Kelso on Thursday. In the first game against Monroe, the senior delivered a season-high 28 kills including three to save set point in the decisive fourth set. She came back with 11 kills against Gig Harbor in the third game of the day.

Sophomore Josie McNew had a team-high 12 kills against Gig Harbor and Royal Grafton added seven kills. Emily Thompson distributed 26 assists and Rielee Gourde led the defense with 14 digs against the Tides.

“We really want to place top eight in State, that’s a big goal for us,” Kelso senior hitter Olivia Chilton said. “To do it two years in a row would be amazing and I think that we can do it if we keep pushing and keep being resilient we’ll get there.”

The resilience showed up multiple times throughout a day in which Kelso played 10 sets over ten hours in the dome. It was there after the Hilanders dropped their first set of the day in a 25-22 loss to Monroe, a loss in which Kelso uncharacteristically struggled defensively and in the serve-receive phase, and allowed them to recover by winning the next three sets to take the match in four.

The resilience showed up again as it took Mead to extra points in the third set, even after falling 25-9 in the second set against the Panthers. Then it was evident one more time in the match against the Tides; The Hilanders faced set points on multiple occasions but stayed focused and under control to close that match out in three and wrap up their day without having to expend any more energy before trophy day.

“We seem to always come out and I think that comes with their confidence," Kelso coach Michelle Mury said. "They believe in themselves and they don’t get in their heads."

Kelso was forced to play with a few of its key players at less than 100 percent due to illness, including McNew and Chilton. That made the fact that they were able to pull out close games against Gig Harbor in order to end the match in three sets and save as much energy for Friday as possible even more important.

Not that the Hilanders would have had a hard time getting up for the biggest day of the season.

“We just wanted to win the game and go,” Chilton said. “The energy we have on the court is really amazing in how we support each other in each and every game even when we’re tired.”

After beating Monroe in four sets in a play-in game, Kelso was forced to play the No. 2 seed Mead (16-1 overall) out of the Greater Spokane conference. Mead knocked the Hilanders out of the main bracket with a three-set sweep by scores of 25-20, 25-9 and 27-25.

Kelso was set to rest up Thursday night and Friday morning, returning to the court for a 12:45 p.m. loser-out contest with 14-seed Lynnwood, a team which beat 6-seed Snohomish in five sets on Day 1. With six seniors rapidly approaching the end of their Kelso volleyball careers, the focus is on hardware.

“It’s extremely important to us this year as more than half of the team is seniors,” Johnson admitted. “It’s important to us to at least make it to (Friday) and bring something home.”


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