YAKIMA — The Graham-Kapowsin Eagles made their first trip to the Class 4A state volleyball finals count Saturday, sprinting past the Lake Stevens Vikings 25-21, 25-18, 25-22 for the championship.
The Eagles (21-4) combined outstanding work at the service line with timely hitting at the net to bring home the big trophy after a pair of third-place finishes. They advanced by beating Mount Rainier 25-14, 26-24, 26-24 in the semifinals.
Graham-Kapowsin came into the match at the Yakima Valley SunDome wanting to keep Lake Stevens’ powerful front line off balance, Eagles coach Loni Parks said. Consider that box checked on the goal sheet.
“A huge point of emphasis for us was just getting Lake Stevens out of system,” Parks said as her players celebrated and contemplated a championship dinner at Yakima landmark Miner’s behind her. “We knew we had to hit tough because if they set up they were just going to pound it down our throats.”
Controlling the service line — an infrequent occurrence when the emphasis is on front-line power — was key for the Eagles in the second and third games.
“We talked about serving them off the floor, so they can’t set up an offense,” Parks said. “That was a huge part of our strategy today. HUGE.”
“Our net players are powerful. Once again, get them out of system,” Parks said. “Our goal is playing offense 90% of the time, because then they are defending most of the time.”
Check that box as well.
The Eagles’ power tandem of Hailey Brockway and Manaia Toa kept the Vikings defense under constant duress in the back-and-forth first game. Neither team could put together any sort of a substantial service run, with G-K’s brief burst to move from down 12-14 to ahead 16-14 being the longest of the game.
Adding to the problems that Brockway caused for the Vikings was her unique corkscrewing serve. Oddly, after her powerful presence at the net, she closed the first game out with an off-speed kill and a service ace. The irresistible-force-meets-immovable-object match up between two power-hitting front lines created repeated defensive issues for each squad.
The Eagles got rolling early in the second game behind the nifty service work of Noelle White. Her work turned an 8-5 deficit into a 14-8 lead, and Brockway reeled off four quick kills — including one from the back row — that put the Vikings in a hole they couldn’t climb out of.
Senior Grace Peterson broke open a third-game logjam with a seven-point run at the service line, setting the Eagles up with a 16-10 lead. Lake Stevens senior Peri Hoshock came right back, aided by a timely block deflection from Hayli Tri at the net, to cut the deficit to 21-18. Tri and Katelyn Eichert teamed up for a double block to cut the deficit to 22-20, but Brockway stepped up once again with two kills — including the game winner.
Lake Stevens (18-4) knocked off top-seeded Puyallup to get to the finals 23-25, 25-22, 27-25, 25-21. Lake Stevens took home the runner-up trophy for the second time.
“I give it up to Graham Kapowsin,” a disappointed Lake Stevens coach Kyle Hoglund said. “They played their game, and we had a hard time keeping up with them this time. Our girls fought all night, this is just the way it ends up some time.”