TUMWATER – For the second time in fourteen days, Firm Foundation won a five-set match against Naselle, this one coming in District finals on Nov. 1. The Eagles are now 2-1 against Naselle, making them the only team to beat the Comets this year.
Holly Disch had a sensational performance against Naselle’s new-found rival. From all spots on the court, Disch pounded vicious hits to the back-row gaps, many of which hit the ground before defenders had time to react.
“She made a lot of my sets look good,” said Taylor Gudmundsen, who found Disch from every angle and often at a great distance.
Sophie Scrabeck also repeatedly won tough points. Several times, she was running out of space near the pole but redirected the ball cross-court for a kill.
Though Naselle had a potent offense, there was a feeling among Comet players that Firm Foundation had the better day defensively. They blocked well. They couldn’t do anything about Disch’s hits that were simply unreturnable. But many times, on Comet hits that would have left other opponents scrambling just to send back a free ball, Firm Foundation quickly went back on the attack.
“They were scrappy, and we didn’t really have that this game,” Hailey Weston said.
The six-foot Katie Kogler, Firm Foundation’s best hitter, dominated whenever they could get her the ball above the net in the middle. She consistently tipped it over double-blocks to an opening, often in mid-court.
“Their hitters really see gaps well. They knew when to block, when to tip. Their tipping was smart,” said Gudmundsen. “We need to learn now to adjust to that. If the defense is finding spots, there need to not be those gaps.”
“Whenever they got a free ball, they just went for the tip,” added Weston, who thought the Comets let Firm Foundation rely a bit too much on that play.
Disch put her mark on the game from the start, getting a quick kill around a double-block on the game’s second point and following with another kill to put Naselle up 3-0. Naselle led 7-3 before a 10-0 Eagle run that included a couple of hits over the head of the drawn in defense. Kogler spiked back Gudmundsen’s setter dump attempt for a 20-13 lead. Kogler then hit one through blockers to the back corner, where Peyton Dalton made a diving stop but could not get off a pass, putting Firm Foundation on its way to a 25-14 first-set win.
Naselle played at a very high level to start the second set. Disch had an overpowering kill on a tough feed from Gudmundsen, then pushed one through the defense for another point. Gudmundsen hit a setter dump to the middle that had almost everyone on Firm Foundation diving, and they all came up short. She followed with an ace. Disch redirected a ball from the outside to a middle opening to make it 5-2 Naselle. Hollie Haataia hit one high off the fingertips of a blocking Katie Rommell for a 7-5 lead.
After Firm Foundation took an 11-10 lead, Gudmundsen made a perfect short-range set to Disch, who tied it with a hit too hard for the front row to handle. Disch gave Naselle the lead with an emphatic slam on the next point. Kylee Tarabochia had a hard cross-court hit that the Eagles’ defender returned out of bounds, then went cross-court again on the next point, aiming it away from the defender’s hands for the kill and a 15-12 lead.
After that Some Comet misses out of bounds, and good hitting by Firm Foundation, led to a 10-1 Eagle run that for a 22-16 lead.
Scrabeck led Naselle back. Her hit to a gap forced a dive by Kogler, who could not connect on the pass. Scrabeck’s kill to another opening in the middle cut it to 22-20. After a spike by Steenerson, Srabeck landed another kill in front of Kogler to tie it at 22. The Eagles followed with some misses, and Naselle won the set 25-22, tying the match at one. Kenzie Glenn served on the final eight points of the set.
Kogler was at the top of her game in the third set. Gudmundsen made some great plays to keep Naselle in it, including a cross-court dump to an abandoned corner and a difficult set right to Steenerson above the net for an easy kill. The Comets led 17-16 and later tied it at 22, but Firm Foundation won 25-22 to go up 2-1.
Naselle trailed in the fourth set, 18-15, but came back to win it. Disch zipped one through a gap, then followed with an ace serve. Glenn won a battle at the net to tie it at 18. Scrabeck hit the ball through the front row defense for a kill and the lead. Disch absorbed a high-velocity hit by Kogler, leading to a short-range kill by Scrabeck. Haataia and Glenn won a point at the net for a 21-18 lead. On set point, Haataia spiked back the Eagle’s return of Glenn’s serve to close out the 25-19 win, tying the match at two.
In the tiebreaking set, with Naselle behind 8-5, Gudmundsen’s head rolled into the floor on a desperate dive. She was on the ground badly hurt but was eventually able to pop up and head to the bench. Referees kept her from reentering out of caution over the possibility of concussion, but Gudmundsen has been medically cleared for State.
Losing Gudmundsen turned an uphill battle into a nearly impossible one for the shaken Comets. Dalton filled in ably as setter, but Firm Foundation took the deciding set 15-7.
The teams played with great intensity even though both had clinched State berths by reaching District finals. For the Comets, with a mostly-senior roster, reaching State was considered a must after they fell short in Districts last year. They played at a much higher level throughout this year’s District tournament. Firm Foundation has become stronger than any local Naselle opponent in recent years, except perhaps an elite 2B team like Ocosta. That tough competition should prepare the Comets for the State tournament, which takes place in Yakima Thursday and Friday.