The sophomore-powered Jaguars claimed a state-tournament berth, but Auburn Riverside and Kentwood face a loser-out match Saturday in the bi-district tournament.
COVINGTON — Winning this volleyball tournament isn’t on their goal list.
But, hey, why not?
The Emerald Ridge Jaguars took a basic approach entering the West Central/Southwest 4A bi-district tourney Friday at Kentwood High School: Win two before you lose two. That formula assures teams of a trip to state.
And the sixth-ranked Jags of Puyallup are in after winning both of their matches. That puts them in Saturday’s semifinals against No. 4 Camas at noon.
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Turns out, just getting to state may not be enough for Emerald Ridge.
“We might as well win it,” outside hitter Jenna Mullen said.
Mullen, one of the team’s five supersophs, keyed a 3-1 quarterfinal victory over Gig Harbor with 23 kills. Each one stoked the boisterous ER student section, which stormed the court to celebrate with the players.
And she can play better, according to co-coach Bobby McGivern.
“She had her moments,” he said. “It wasn’t her best match, but it was good enough.”
Emerald Ridge (27-5), the South Puget Sound League champion, dropped the opening set to Gig Harbor, 25-22, then rallied.
“We fought back and played our hardest,” Mullen said. “We didn’t give up on any point.”
The Jaguars have a resiliency that McGivern shakes his clean-shaven head at.
“This team, as young as they are, just keeps amazing me,” he said.
After taking the first two sets of their opening match against Skyview of Vancouver, they trailed 11-0 in the third and came back to win 25-21.
Talk about comebacks: Camas (25-3) came from two sets down to beat Olympia in the quarterfinals. Olympia, the defending state champion, now plays a loser-out, winner-to-state match with Rogers of Puyallup Saturday at 10 a.m.
The other noon semifinal pairs No. 3 Bellarmine Prep (26-3) against surprising Union of Vancouver (17-5), which handled 10th-ranked Auburn Riverside handily in the quarterfinals, 3-1.
AR coach Chris Leverenz said her team showed its youth. Now the Ravens face an elimination match against rival Kentwood. Those teams finished 1-2 in the SPSL North. Riverside edged Kentwood to close out the regular season, 3-2.
Kentwood lost its opener to Olympia, 3-1.
The biggest surprise of the first round was Kent-Meridian’s 3-2 opening victory over seventh-ranked Curtis, fueled by the 25 kills from Chloe Watson.
“Once the Chloe train got started, there was no stopping her,” Curtis coach Jeff Grosshans said.
K-M then lost 3-0 to Bellarmine, the defending tournament champion, and plays Puyallup Saturday with a state berth on the line. Curtis and Gig Harbor square off to determine the final state qualifier.
The championship match is scheduled for 4 p.m.