Bearcats Outlast Tigers, Win in Five Sets


The first Swamp Cup of the season on the hardwood definitely lived up to its name and billing: far from the cleanest volleyball game ever played, but an energetic rivalry for five sets. And in a match of runs, the W.F. West volleyball team ran away with the final one, beating Centralia 25-20, 16-25, 25-20, 15-25, 15-4.

“When the energy was with us, we just seemed to calm down and play a bit better and they would tighten up,” W.F. West coach Robert Lucas said. “Then they would do well and relax, and we would tighten up. It was going to come down to whoever was going to be the most relaxed.”

Come the end of the fourth set, that sure didn’t look like it was going to be the Bearcats. After holding a narrow lead early, W.F. West saw the Tigers go up 17-15, then send Gracie Schofield back to the service line, where the junior libero promptly served eight straight points — including three aces — to tie the match up at two sets apiece.

That was the way Centralia won its two sets; back in the second set, the Tigers racked up seven aces en route to another win by a wide margin that got a late-arriving visiting student section to rise to its feet and challenge their hosting counterparts for noise at times.

But going into the fifth, Lucas and his staff had just a couple of minutes to right the ship mentally and emotionally.

“We were just telling them to do what we do, play smart,” he said. “We know that we don’t always have to hit; we just have to play smart. If it’s a roll, it’s a roll. If it’s a tip, then it’s a tip. We just had to make sure that we do what we do, control the ball and get it over, and then we’ll let them play the next point.”

And after four straight sets with back-and-forth starts, the Bearcats finally figured out how to jump out ahead. Two Mari Ceesay kills — one of the unintentional variety on a free ball that wasn’t returned, the other of the very intentional variety on an authoritative spike down the middle of the court — put them ahead early, and Centralia started to falter. A mishmash of tough passes, miscommunications, and attacking errors put the hosts up 7-1, before Morgan Rogerson slammed down a kill to send the home student section into a frenzy. And when the Bearcats gave the Tigers a point on a service error, Centralia gave it right back.

The Tigers ended the night with 19 service errors, outweighing their 15 aces.

“Those are all points that we don’t get an opportunity to score off of,” Centralia coach Marti Smith said.

Rogerson led the Bearcats with 11 kills, and added three aces.

Ceesay started the match off a bit rough, but came into her own as the points rolled past, and by the end of night was a hard-swinging focal point in the middle of the net.

“She’s very vocal,” Lucas said. “Where her emotions go, her and Courtney (Jones), where they are emotionally, pretty much the team will follow that. They’re kind of our emotional leaders.”

Ava Brenner served up five aces for the Bearcats, while Savannah Hawkins had 17 assists.

For Centralia, Peyton Smith dished out 26 assists and added 11 digs and three aces to her line. Lauren Wasson had a team-high nine kills, while also logging 10 digs and three aces, while Tatum Johnson had six kills and a trio of aces of her own.

“I’m still proud of them, I’m still proud of the fight, because we knew that W.F. West was taller and bigger and that we were going to have our work cut out for us against them,” Smith said.

W.F. West (2-4, 1-1 2A EvCo) will be back in action in Thurston County on Tuesday, taking on Black Hills. Coming off back-to-back five-setters, Centralia (4-2, 1-1 2A EvCo) will get an extra two days off before taking on the Wolves at home next Thursday.