LACEY — In its first District appearance since 2001, Ilwaco’s volleyball team threatened a shocking upset over Kalama before falling short. Hours later, they beat Morton-White Pass to stay alive in the double-elimination tournament. The games were Saturday, Oct 28. Ilwaco advances to elimination games in Willapa Valley Wednesday, Nov. 1, where they must win two straight to place among the top six teams in the District and advance to State.
First round against Kalama
The Chinooks, 13-4 in the regular season, are the third seed out of the Central League with an 8-2 league record and are the defending State champions. Ilwaco (6-9, 3-5) was the sixth seed out of the Pacific League.
Kalama dominated the opening set 25-8 and went up 19-11 in the second set. Ilwaco went on an 11-5 run to get close at 24-22. The Chinooks closed out the set and took a 2-0 lead, but the always erratic Fishermen were coming to life.
In the third set, Madeline Jacobson made a slick play, spinning in the air and angling the ball to an opening for a kill and an 8-5 lead. Answering an 8-2 Chinook run, Jamie Patana fed a perfect set to Jacobson, who threw down the kill. With Kalama clinging to a 17-16 lead, Patana went with a setter dump, subtly disguising the angle on her hit, directing it away from the outside hitter for a kill that tied it at 17.
Kalama took a 23-22 lead and looked to set up match point. Ebby McMullen chased the ball down way behind the back line and got off a bump pass to Patana, who redirected it over the net for the tying kill. On the next point, Taylor Sheldon chased one down way out past the sideline and bumped it over the net cross-court; the Chinooks’ next hit went right into a Makenzie Kaech spike for the Ilwaco lead. Jacobson finished off the set with an ace in front of a dive from the back row.
As they turned the match around, the Fishermen seemed to feed off each other’s energy. “They were all leaders. Everyone was running the team, and that’s what it takes,” coach Trisha Gibson said. “We’re the dark horse team here, and we’re hitting our peak.” The talented group of players was working effectively as a unit. “If someone shanked it, someone was running after it, getting the ball over the net,” libero Ebby McMullen said. This defense and team cohesion allowed Ilwaco to outlast Kalama in long rallies.
By the fourth set, Ilwaco had Kalama a bit off its game. Patana kept them on defense with her serving, helping Ilwaco build a 4-0 lead, which the Fishermen extended to 8-2.
Kaech and Jacobson, Ilwaco’s middle hitters, were finding a groove. Kaech sometimes lurked harmlessly below the net and drew hits right in her wheelhouse, then sprung at the last possible moment. The middle hitting duo also had to keep from hitting at Kalama star Kapio Wetmore, who stands 6’3” and high jumps in the 4’10” range during track season.
Rotating to the back row late in the fourth set, Kaech closed a gap in the deep corner with an amazing diving stop; Sophia Marsh shortly won the point by stuffing a Kalama spike attempt, boosting the lead to 21-14. On game point at 24-15, Marsh put Kalama on the defensive with a tough hit, and the Chinooks returned it right into a Jacobson spike. That tied the match at two sets apiece.
During the third and fourth sets, Gibson said, “We were doing everything right: setting, passing, serving.” The Fishermen needed near this near-perfect play to come back and take the Chinooks to five sets, but they weren’t quite able to complete the upset.
Wetmore opened the decisive fifth set with an overpowering kill. The Chinooks got their hitting game going and grabbed a lead to start the fifth set. Patana made a diving stop of a Wetmore hit, leading to an Ilwaco point. Sheldon made a tough bump over to keep another point alive, leading to a Kaech kill that cut the lead to 13-10. Kalama wrapped things up with a pair of big hits for a 15-10 win in the tie-breaking set.
Elimination round vs. Morton-White Pass
After the excitement of the upset bid against Kalama, Ilwaco faced the Morton-White Pass Timberwolves, the seventh seed out of the Central League. The Fishermen were badly off their game in the first set, missing serves and whiffing at hits. They fell behind 17-5 and lost 25-10, but recovered to win the next three sets.
“We had to get calm,” said coach Trisha Gibson. “We went from an emotional high in the Kalama game, then came way down in the first set. We had to find a balance.”
Kaech opened scoring in the second set, angling a kill through two defenders. Ilwaco fell behind 5-4, but Patana answered with a setter dump into completely open space in the middle to tie it. The Fishermen built a lead midway through the set as Kaech and Jacobson feasted on Patana’s sets. Ilwaco won 25-16, tying the match at one.
In the third set, Ilwaco took a big lead, but the Wolves chipped away to 21-18. The next point saw a long rally, with diving stops by Ariana Bell and Patana keeping it alive; Kaech put Ilwaco back on offense with a big hit, allowing the Fishermen to win the point. Kaech followed shortly with a powerful kill down the sideline, then another on an assist by Patana. The Fishermen won 25-20 to take a lead of two sets to one.
Asu Herrera-Sanchez came up big off the bench in the fourth set, providing the Fishermen with the depth they needed on a long day. With Ilwaco clinging to a 13-10 lead, her hard hit sent the Timberwolves reeling, and they missed out of bounds for an Ilwaco point. Herrera-Sanchez spike near the end made it 24-17. Shortly afterward, she dumped one over to the middle on second contact, surprising the Wolves defense and closing out the 25-19 win.
ILWACO — Northwest Christian beat Ilwaco 25-18, 25-20, 25-21 on Wednesday, Oct. 25, senior night for the Fishermen. Ilwaco finished the regular season 3-5 in league play, the Navigators 6-2.
Facing match point at 24-14, the Fishermen scored seven straight points, the last six with Ariana Bell serving. Faith Simonson angled a ball away from a hitter in the front row for a kill that got the Fishermen going. Alayna Marsh followed shortly with a couple of impressive kills. The Fishermen won a long rally to close the gap to 24-21. Bell finally went just long with a serve, ending the match.