NASELLE — The opening night volleyball match between Naselle and Ilwaco high schools last Tuesday night was a showcase of sorts, with one team showing an uptick in competitive play (IHS) and another continuing their solid run from the last few years (NHS). And while NHS won the match 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 26-24), IHS had its moments and played a good Comets team close for much of the match — NHS had to force extra points to win the final set.
“It was a very strong first match,” said NHS coach Bekah Wirkkala afterward. “They opened the season with a lot of energy. We came back to win that final set because of their composure.”
First year IHS coach Michaela Eastham, who was coaching her first game with the Lady Fishermen agreed on the level of play in the opening match.
“No one likes to lose, so of course the girls and I were disappointed but I am absolutely thrilled with the way the girls performed,” she said. “They fought hard, stayed aggressive, and kept great attitudes the whole time.”
After getting off to a late start due to a long JV match beforehand, NHS got off to a 5-0 lead, in part on four serving points from senior Lily Harman. IHS showed noticeable flashes of improved play, but up against a NHS team that has been to the playoffs the last several years, it was hard to keep up. NHS won the set 25-19 on a serve defense.
Fans’ spirits high
As the second set began, the student sections for both schools showed that they too had brought their “A” game, keeping up a good racket through the match. While IHS students (mostly football players) had students take turns doing push ups for every point Ilwaco scored, NHS crowd surfed a student through their section before having a small group of boys walk out on the floor and do simultaneous back flips.
IHS off to a nice start in the second set, with a 3-1 lead, but NHS soon tied it up. The Comets, partly due to solid serving by senior Holly Disch, then went on a 10 point run, going up 11-3. The Comets won the second set fairly easily, 25-15.
In the third and final set, IHS once again got off to a good start, going up 6-3. The Lady Fishermen would extend their lead to 14-9 before the Comets started to bounce back. A number of IHS errors, and good serving by senior Tylor Gudmundson, led to a 19-19 tie. Again, the Lady Fishermen held strong, going up 24-22. But the Comets showed their experience and poise in forcing extra points and winning 26-24.
“Our serving and defense was definitely the key,” said Wirkkala. “Holly’s (Disch) 15 kills were dominant and she is hard to shut down. Lily’s (Harman) amazing, scrappy, consistant defense is what allows us to run our offense.”
Eastham said she was pleased with how well her team played and noted areas that they can now work on.
“The point of non-league games is to figure out where our weak points are, so we can improve them before league, and this game was great for that,” she said. “The girls saw their need to improve communication and coverage on tips and blocks. We learned a lot from our loss against Naselle.”
Asthma had praise for Abby Knopski, who “had some stellar hits, and played aggressive,” and noted that the choice to make McMullen a team captain paid off.
“Ebby was a strong leader on and off the court,” Eastham said. “She proved mine and her teams decision in making her a captain, to be a wise one.”
And despite the loss, Eastham said she was pretty excited to have coached her first match.
“I loved it. It’s definitely going to take some getting used to,” she said, before harkening back to her playing days. “I’ve always been on the court, so having to stand a minimum of 6 feet from it can be a challenge.”