The Ravens rallied to beat Mead for their third state title in four years, and they won it for Richard Ingram, the father of sophomore Brianna, who died before the season.
KENNEWICK — Motivation? Inspiration?
The Auburn Riverside Ravens already had plenty of that heading into the volleyball season.
Defending the Class 4A championship, certainly.
Sending the seniors out properly, absolutely.
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But when Richard Ingram died of cancer a few weeks before their opener at age 55, the Ravens had every reason to win it all again — and they did just that Saturday, coming from behind to beat Mead of Spokane, 3-2. It’s their third title in four years; they won the Class 3A crown in 2014.
Riverside players and coaches wore team shirts this season that said “R4” — those four R’s stood for Riverside Ravens Repeat for Richard, the father of sophomore teammate Brianna Ingram.
“We wanted to support Bri and her mom while playing for Richard,” coach Chris Leverenz said. “He was an amazing man, and many of my girls were close to him.”
So, after the top-ranked Ravens (24-4) had rallied from a 2-1 deficit to force a fifth set, they had a long talk before taking the court again. Among the discussion — the help above from Richard.
“That’s what we talked about — we’ve got extra on our side,” Leverenz said. “We worked this hard, he’s here with us and we need to push through.”
Brianna — who made some major contributions — reveled in the moment
“I don’t usually cry, but it was so, so special that we won this, with that (motivation) behind it,” she said.
The most tears seemed to come from senior hitter Calley Heilborn, the repeat state-tourney MVP who fueled the victory with 27 kills and 18 digs. She was especially emotional getting the congratulatory call from older sister Carson Heilborn, the MVP of the 2014 tourney who is now at the University of New Mexico.
And the mention of Richard Ingram brought more waterworks.
“He was always so supportive of us, and to win this in honor of him is just so awesome,” she said.
Senior setter Ciera Zimmerman, another two-time all-tournament choice, was key with 52 assists, and Kate Pestova, the senior addition from Kazakhstan, came to life with 13 kills, 22 digs and three aces.
Second-ranked Mead (27-3) seemed primed to avenge the 3-0 loss in last year’s title game, winning sets two and three, but couldn’t maintain momentum — despite the 22 kills from Madison Lee and 63 assists from McKenna Russell, two other all-tourney choices.
• Emerald Ridge of South Hill (30-7) wanted to finish this tournament on a high note — and the Jaguars did just that, rallying from a 2-0 deficit against SPSL rival Curtis (27-7) of University Place for a five-set victory in the third/fourth-place match.
• Four straight trips to state, four trophies — not a bad run for the Tahoma Bears (23-10). They beat Puyallup (29-6) in five sets in the fifth/sixth-place match.
• Eastlake (26-6), co-champions of KingCo, went 2-2 in the tournament and finished eighth for the first state volleyball trophy in school history. Seventh place went to No. 3 West Valley of Yakima (31-3) after the 3-0 victory.
Calley Heilborn, Auburn Riverside, Sr. (MVP)
Maddie Lee, Mead, Sr.
Kava Durr, Sr., Emerald Ridge
Emily Smith, Tahoma, Sr.
Shea Rubright, West Valley (Yakima), Jr.
Kaitlin Sugai, Puyallup, Sr.
Ciera Zimmerman, Auburn Riverside, Sr.
Lindsey Russell, Mead, Sr.
Kasey Woodruff, Curtis, Sr.