Both teams, ranked No. 1 earlier in the season, shook of late losses to win two matches in the first day of the Class 3A state tournament.
KENNEWICK — It’s not where you start, but where you finish — right?
Mercer Island and Eastside Catholic were each once ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 3A volleyball poll before a couple of late-season hiccups.
But they still have hopes of finishing on top after advancing to Saturday’s state semifinals at the Toyota Center.
Eastside Catholic (17-4), which fell completely out of the rankings after losing its last two matches of the SeaKing District tournament, smacked No. 2 Ferndale in the quarterfinals Friday, 3-0. No. 8 Mercer Island (21-2), forced to win two loser-out matches to even get here, dispatched two other ranked teams, No. 6 Gig Harbor (3-0) and No. 7 Stanwood (3-1).
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“I’m happy to not be considered a quote-unquote favorite, and then just prove ourselves through the tournament. That’s totally fine with me,” MI coach Susan Rindlaub said.
Of course, the team ranked No. 1 — Capital of Olympia — hopes to have something to say about who deserves the title. The Cougars (26-3) knocked off defending-champion Lakeside in another quarterfinal, 3-1. That avenged last year’s semifinal loss.
The Cougars, fourth last year and second to Auburn Riverside in 2014, are playing with hunger.
“This is our last chance,” said setter Tia Grow, one of six seniors.
Capital clashes with Eastside Catholic in one semifinal, while Mercer Island gets No. 3 Mount Spokane (25-4) in the other — both at 1 p.m. The championship match is slated for 7 p.m.
Eastside setter Mia Kirsch said the Crusaders felt confident coming in despite the two losses at district.
“We all knew what we needed to do,” Kirsch said, citing positioning and limiting errors. “We needed to focus on what we can do and to be a team rather than individuals.”
The team started strong against Timberline, 2-0, then dropped two sets and had to pull out the fifth, 15-8, which had coach Alicia Martin concerned.
“We struggled this morning, and I think they got all of their jitters out,” she said. “I think they were just ready to play (against Ferndale). We had a different energy and were playing together and having fun.”
Rindblad said her team’s energy and focus also changed after the 3-2 upset against Holy Names in the SeaKing quarterfinals.
“In some ways I think the Holy Names loss was a blessing in disguise,” she said, “because it really fired up the team and made them realize how much they really care about season.”
• Holy Names went 0-2. No. 9 Snohomish (20-8) is still alive after its opening loss to Capital. Stanwood (21-6) and Lakeside (16-10) face elimination matches Saturday at 9 a.m.