Wolves battle for their playoff lives

In the course of just one week, the South Kitsap High School volleyball team has gone from being tied for first place in the Narrows League Bridge Division to being on the cusp of not qualifying for the Narrows League tournament Nov. 2.

SK (3-2 Bridge Division, 5-6 overall) hosts Olympic (2-3, 7-5) Tuesday at 5 p.m. in a must-win match if it hopes to get into the league tournament.

The Wolves conclude the regular season with a match at Gig Harbor Thursday.

If SK defeats Olympic, a win at Gig Harbor could push SK into a tie for second place or third place outright.

The top four teams in each division advances to the league tournament.

The Wolves suffered a heartbreaking five-game loss to Central Kitsap 15-13, 10-15, 15-7, 14-16, 15-8, on Tuesday before losing in three games at Shelton 15-3, 15-10, 15-8 Thursday night.

Defeating a talented Shelton team (5-0, 10-1) — without coach Cathy Gangnes (who was out of town) and starting setter Crystal Bitz — may have been too tough a challenge, but it is the CK match SK players wish they could have back.

For two-plus hours, both teams battled back and forth, with neither seemingly wanting to lose.

CK (4-1, 9-3) entered the fourth game with a 2-1 lead in games, but SK came back from an 11-7 deficit to pull the score even at 13-13 on a Rikki Bentley and Stephanie Peacock block.

Peacock pushed the lead to 14-13 on a kill, and Chelsea Hoffman’s ace sealed the win in game four to extend the match to a fifth game.

SK came out hot with an early 3-0 lead, but four CK kills and five SK hitting errors (which plagued SK all night) allowed the Cougars to creep back and take a 10-3 lead.

SK was able to pull within five points at 10-5 but CK rattled of five of the next eight points to seal the victory.

Despite pushing CK to the brink of a loss, SK captain Jackie Binns said she was frustrated the whole night, whether it was her play or calls made by the referee.

“We wanted to win this match so bad,” Binns said. “We could have had this if we would have won the first game. I don’t want to talk about the ref.”

While the referee may have missed a couple of calls, he could not control the Wolves’ 30 hitting errors that went to points for the Cougars.

That means 54 percent of CK’s points came on SK errors.

Peacock led SK with 10 kills, followed by Lea Juntila’s nine kills.

Juntila was also victim to misfortune as three of her apparent kills were kept alive by CK after the ball hit the face of one player and the backs of two other players.

CK not only kept Juntila from scoring those kills, it converted the save into side-outs.

While she has seen improvement in her team since the start of the season, Gangnes said there are mental barriers that need to be fixed.

“We’re still not focused on playing every point,” Gangnes said. “We’ve had a history this year of making too many errors. Apparently we need to stop making so many errors.”

Binns said a perfect example of not playing every point was in SK’s defense.

CK continually recorded kills via the tip ball.

“We didn’t adjust to it until the third game and they still got us on tips late in the match,” Binns said. “I can see when a tip is coming but not everyone can see it.”

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