Wolves' spikers come within a game of state tournament

The South Kitsap volleyball team fought through illness and adversity, but came up just short of its goal of reaching the state tournament on Saturday at Bethel High School in Spanaway.

After winning the opening set of the loser-out, winner-to-state match against the South Puget Sound League’s Auburn-Riverside 25-20, the Wolves struggled as the Lady Ravens won out 25-20, 25-16, 25-18 to deny SK’s first trip to state since 2000.

“I’m disappointed in the loss, not in the way they played,” SK coach Cathy Gangnes said of her team afterwards. “The kids stepped up and did what they needed to do since everyone was in a different place than they usually are in the rotation.”

Regular starting middle Gabi Devault had a temperature of 103 degrees on Saturday morning, forcing Gangnes to shuffle her players to unfamiliar positions.

“I thought they stepped up for kids who were standing in the hall 15 minutes before our first match wondering where they’re going to go,” Gangnes said. “How do you play against a team like (South Puget Sound League North Division champions) Auburn-Riverside with a 5-foot-6 middle (Chelsea Hoffman)? I thought Chelsea did great for us.”

Hoffman, the team’s emotional leader, was obviously worn out after the loss.

“We lost our focus,” said Hoffman who normally plays outside hitter. “I knew we could’ve beaten that team. We didn’t go all out. It was just so close, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”

Senior setter and Bridge Division co-MVP Stephanie Olsen said the Wolves were trying maybe a little too hard to beat Auburn-Riverside.

“We knew to take Auburn-Riverside out of the game we had to serve tough so that their offense wasn’t there,” Olsen said. “So a lot of our (eight) serving errors were because we wanted to be aggressive. That’s what happens when you try to be aggressive — you make more errors.”

This is the first year Olsen has missed out on the state tournament. She went with SK in 2000 as a freshman and the last two seasons when she played at Puyallup.

“I just wanted it so bad again,” said Olsen, who still plans on going to Everett, albeit as a spectator. “That’s all. I was feeling on the court is that I want this, I want this and it didn’t happen.”

South had a tough start to its tournament when it opened against undefeated Heritage 25-21, 25-20, 25-14 on Friday night with 28 unforced errors.

“It’s just uncontrollable forces sometimes,” Hoffman said. “We had everything going our way, but sometimes things happen you can’t explain.”

That forced the Lady Wolves into the consolation bracket and a rematch against Bridge Division foes Gig Harbor on Saturday morning.

The match went back-and-forth with South Kitsap getting the season sweep over the Lady Tides with a 25-23, 23-25, 25-14, 20-25, 15-12 win.

“We always like to beat Gig Harbor,” Olsen said. “We knew they wanted it just as bad as we do. It feels so good to come out on top of that game.”

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