YAKIMA — Rainier’s unthinkable run through the 2B volleyball postseason finally ended Thursday night in a sweeping loss by Toutle Lake (25-12, 25-16, 25-8) in the loser’s bracket of the state tournament in Yakima.
The Mountaineers are far from losers. Rainier won just one league game, was victorious in a do-or-die pigtail game for the final district berth then scored three-straight loser-out upsets at districts to qualify for the state tourney for the first time in 24 years.
Though the season ended with two-straight losses at state, coach Shauna Carpenter said this season was far from a disappointment. It was the opposite.
“The first thing they did when they came off the court was try to hold their heads low,” Carpenter said. “I’m like, ‘You can’t. You’ve gotta put your heads high. To be a top-16 team in the state, that’s huge. Especially coming off one league win.'”
Carpenter said the team finally realized the weight of their success when the Ducks’ coach came over and talked to them, praising the Mountaineers for their impressive run.
“I can’t thank him enough,” Carpenter said. “(Our team) finally realized it wasn’t just me saying it. They made it. They did, really, the unthinkable.”
Rainier’s turnaround came during that pigtail match against Toledo to earn the final district spot. The Mountaineers felt like they had an entirely new season and played like it.
Carpenter credits her senior leadership for helping guide the younger players along and keeping everyone motivated.
Playing in their final matches were Natasha Wood-Salinas, Ilanys Osorio, Sloan Fulton, Karisma Adams and Autumn Kenney. These were the first group of girls Carpenter ever coached when she volunteered for the first time that year. They were eighth graders at the time.
“It’s really hard to see them go,” Carpenter said. “Those girls, they’ll always have a place in my heart."