YAKIMA — For Black Hills coach Karlee Sampson, the math was simple.
“We came in as the 12 (seed), and we finished eighth,” Sampson said. “We're in the positive, and I’m really happy.”
Even after a loss in the seventh-place game on Saturday evening, the Wolves were in a celebratory mood, as they had become the first Black Hills volleyball team to place at state in a dozen years.
“We had the mindset where we came in as the 12 seed, and we had a chance to play for seventh and eighth,” Sampson said. “That was our goal in this tournament … I’m so proud of them.”
The Wolves took the long route to a placement match, bouncing back from a first-round loss with a win over North Kitsap Friday night before topping Enumclaw in four sets earlier this afternoon.
In that match, Ashley Harris and Claire Johnson combined for 33 kills and 18 digs, Lilly Kincaid tallied 30 aces, Madison Malone logged 15 digs, and Tyler Venable had four aces.
They had less success against Ephrata, losing in three sets, but that did little to dampen the excitement and joy the Wolves felt after the game.
“It was such a fun tournament with them,” Sampson said. “They fought back from losing that first game to White River, and they got to play in this match, which was our goal.”
Sampson, who just finished her first season leading the Black Hills program, said that coming into the year, she knew that getting back to state was a possibility. Bringing home a trophy, however, “definitely exceeded” her expectations.
“They had a really strong team last year, but they went two and out,” Sampson said, before adding that this run injected a new sense of confidence in the entire group.
“I can name six girls right now, their confidence just skyrocketed this season,” Sampson said.
That confidence will carry over into next season for most of the girls, but the Wolves will have to fill the roles of Harris, Johnson, Kincaid, and Ava Klovas, Sampson’s first senior class with the program.
“I could not ask for a better class,” Sampson said. “These seniors are really special.”
Sampson noted that back when she was hired, a few of those seniors were on the hiring panel, and they helped choose her to lead the program.
“They chose me as their coach, and that made me so happy,” Sampson said. “Getting to do their final season with them was so fun.”
Now, with a year and a trophy to her name, Sampson is excited for year two and beyond. Several contributors from this year will be back next fall, including Anneliese Dale, Madison Malone, Ella Goheen and Ellie Johnson.
“I’m excited to keep expanding and building,” Sampson said. “We’ll definitely feel the loss of these four seniors, but I’m excited to go forward.”