They admittedly came into Tuesday night’s South Puget Sound League North Division volleyball match against upstart Tahoma a bit out of sync.
But the Kentlake Falcons certainly found their rhythm before it was too late, using big matches from senior hitters Sarah Ralph and Melissa Kozy to knock off the Bears in five games, 25-18, 16-25, 21-25, 25-22 and 15-13.
Ralph pounded a match-high 20 kills and proved relentless on the net, while Kozy, one of the league’s premier returning players, added 17 digs, 12 kills, three aces and two blocks.
“I think we didn’t come into the game mentally prepared,” said Kozy, a returning first-team all-leaguer. “It’s not that we didn’t think they would be that good, but I think we just weren’t ready to play like we should have. We weren’t as pumped up or lively as we normally are.”
That said, the Bears (0-2 in league, 2-5 overall heading into play Thursday night) gave the Falcons (2-0, 5-1) all they could handle. Tahoma took a one-game advantage heading into the fourth game and had a 16-15 lead midway through, but was unable to close the door on Kentlake.
“We need to finish,” said Tahoma coach Kim Zorn, whose team graduated the bulk of last year’s starting lineup from a team that finished just shy of a state berth. “We struggled with that against Curtis … and Bainbridge.
“I feel like … (inexperience) is part of it. But we lack power. We don’t have that big power outside who can put the ball away, so we have to be smarter. But, looking at our group … it’s coming.”
Tahoma showed as much Tuesday night, getting 18 kills from junior Maria Bahlenhorst and sophomore Robyn Hwang, who played considerably taller than her 5-foot-6 frame. Tahoma setter Mackenzie Cles, one of just two seniors on the team, also delivered big, serving up a season-high 52 assists.
“It’s always frustrating to lose,” Cles said. “But so many of the girls are stepping up and taking that role of the girls who left last year. It’s awesome to see everybody start to find their place on the team.”
The Falcons opened with a relatively convincing win in the first game. Tied 17-17, Kentlake ended the game on an 8-1, run highlighted by pinpoint serving from senior Mackenzie Kyle, who delivered three aces in the final moments.
Tahoma, however, didn’t back down, responding with back-to-back game victories to take the 2-1 advantage. Bahlenhorst led the attack in second game, racking up six kills. Hwang followed with four kills in the third game.
With their backs against the wall, the Falcons finally established the momentum in the pivotal fourth game as Ralph and Kozy took charge, combining for six kills and two aces in a 25-22 win. Kozy carried that momentum into the final game, opening with a kill and serving up an ace as the Falcons took a quick 4-0 lead. Tahoma worked its way back, forging a 9-9 tie, as Cles assisted on the game-tying kill by Bahlenhorst.
Kozy then shifted into overdrive, racking up a block and three kills in leading Kentlake on a 6-4 run to end the match.
“It was the fifth game, all or nothing,” Kozy said. “It just clicked mentally. It was like, ‘OK, let’s go. Win.’”
K-M stuns AR
Wins have been few and far between in past seasons for the Kent-Meridian volleyball team.
But even before the season began, third-year K-M coach Michael Christiansen has preached that this year’s team is different.
The Royals proved as much Tuesday night, knocking off perennial power and South Puget Sound League North Division foe Auburn Riverside in four games: 25-16, 25-20, 24-26 and 25-17.
“It was a good win,” Christiansen said. “It’s a game that if we want to get better and improve as a program, we need to win.”
Auburn Riverside, which has returned to the SPSL North this fall after two years in the SPSL 3A, took second at state a year ago. In addition, the Ravens (0-1, 1-3 heading into play Thursday night) have qualified for state in four of the last five years. In comparison, Kent-Meridian hasn’t qualified for state since 1998.
“They’re better and we are not at our best right now,” lamented Auburn Riverside coach Chris Leverenz. “The team that practices is not the team that shows up on the floor during games.”
Auburn Riverside also was playing without star outside hitter Brooke Bray, a first-team all-league selection a year ago who missed the match with a high-ankle sprain.
That said, the Royals (2-0, 2-3) delivered on Tuesday as Tanya Pyatohka, Kayla Ierlan and McKaley Brewer combined for 32 kills and seven blocks in the win. Setter Davina Fuiava added 33 assists and three aces for the Royals.
“Their setter did a really nice job slowing down the tempo for them,” Leverenz said of Fuiava. “She slows everything down and keeps her team in the game.”
“She’s been solid for us all year,” the coach said.
• ALSO: Second-ranked Kentwood (2-0, 7-0) remained unblemished on Tuesday, cruising past Jefferson in three games, 25-9, 25-16, 25-10. Jocy Wilson served up 25 assists, and Ally Patterson and Erin Campbell collected six kills apiece for the Conquerors. Rachelle Eckert led the Raiders (0-2, 3-3) with five kills. … Despite 14 assists and three aces from Sierra Atkinson, Auburn (0-1, 0-4) was unable to handle Curtis on Tuesday in a nonleague match, falling 25-15, 25-22, 25-19. … Kentridge remained tied with Kentlake, Kent-Meridian and Kentwood for the top spot, knocking off Federal Way, 25-20, 25-26, 25-17. Ashley Nguyen continued to post big numbers for the Chargers (2-0, 4-2) pounding out a match-high 12 kills to go along with three aces. Marissa Fujimoto added 22 assists, and Kelli Sugaro chipped in 13 digs. … Kent-Meridian (2-0, 2-3) supplied the biggest upset of the early season on Tuesday, knocking off state power Auburn Riverside in four games, 25-16, 25-20, 24-26, 25-17. Tanya Pyatohka, Kayla Ierlan and McKaley Brewer combined for 32 kills and seven blocks in the win. Davina Fuiava added 33 assists and three aces for the Royals. Auburn Riverside, playing without star Brooke Bray, who was out with an ankle injury, was paced by Candice Buchanan (13 kills) and Heidi Bell (10 kills).