Echternach set table for team’s successful season

Her coach calls SK setter  Cortney Echternach a “pure athlete.” - Jesse Beals/Staff Photo
Her coach calls SK setter Cortney Echternach a “pure athlete.”
— image credit: Jesse Beals/Staff Photo

It’s a serious position that requires precision and selflessness.

There never seems to be any doubt about South Kitsap setter Cortney Echternach fulfilling the latter trait on the court.

After all, setter is volleyball’s equivalent to quarterback, but it receives about as much attention as an offensive lineman, creating others’ success with little recognition.

In some cases, that can create jealousy and resentment, but outside hitter Stephanie Osterdahl said that isn’t an issue.

“With our positions, we really have to have a strong relationship,” she said. “We’ve formed a strong bond over the last three years as that helps us out on the court. I love her to death.”

The two actually entered the program together as outside hitters, but the 6-foot-1 Osterdahl stayed at that position. At 5-3, Echternach transitioned to setter during her sophomore season.

Echternach said the move wasn’t about height, but filling a need on the roster. She believes she could handle the position if needed.

“I can jump pretty high,” Echternach said of her height. “It doesn’t really hinder me.”

South coach Jessica Anderson doesn’t dispute that. She calls Echternach a “pure athlete” who played basketball and fastpitch growing up and through her time at Marcus Whitman Junior High School.

She still plays softball and hit .360 with a team-high four home runs last season as an outfielder.

Echternach isn’t just successful because she’s athletic, though. Anderson noted that she’s become more focused on volleyball this season. She plays in addition to maintaining a 3.5 grade-point average and working part-time at an espresso stand on Bay Street.

Echternach’s defining moment came when Anderson told her she would start as a sophomore on Sept. 27, 2006.

“She really didn’t have any notice except on the bus ride over to the game,” Anderson said. “She never practiced with Varsity at all, but ever since that Gig Harbor game she’s been our setter.”

It hasn’t always been easy. The Wolves finished with losing records the last two years and were 7-7 entering the Narrows League Tournament.

Echternach said team chemistry was problematic at times, but it isn’t this year. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of focus.

“Most of our games that we’ve lost, it’s been a mental game,” she said. “We feel that we should’ve won those.”

That applies to everyone, including Echternach.

Of course, Anderson also notes that she has played a significant role in the Wolves’ success, particularly a four-match win streak that ended with Monday’s regular-season finale at Bellarmine Prep.

“When she’s in a groove, she’s a clean set,” Anderson said. “She can set the middles, the quicks, the outsides.”

Echternach isn’t only dynamic on the court, but in life, too.

She said she is intrigued by crime-scene investigation and might pursue a criminal justice major at Washington State, her college of choice.

Wherever she ends up, Anderson will fondly remember her setter and that first match at Gig Harbor that the Wolves lost in four games.

“She proved herself that night,” she said. “I think that tells something about a person.”

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