T-Birds Take Battle With Wolves in Five-Setter


TUMWATER — The Tumwater and Black Hills volleyball teams combined to give the crowd in Thurston County one of the best matches yet in the 2A EvCo, with the Thunderbirds pulling out a back-and-forth five-set win, 25-15, 25-27, 25-17, 18-25, 16-14 on Tuesday night.

“I think both teams did a really good job of adjusting to what the other team was doing,” Tumwater coach Molly Cichosz said. “It was a tough one, and I’m so glad that we just kept adapting and pulled it out.”

The close match had a fittingly close end; neither side score more than four points in a row in the fifth set, and neither team led by more than two. Tumwater held a slight lead before a three-point Black Hills run turned a one-point deficit into a 10-8 advantage for the Wolves, before Tumwater came right back to go ahead 12-10. The T-Birds got the set to 14-12, but Black Hills fought off two match points to tie things up. Starting to wrest momentum back, though, the Wolves had the next serve fall just out to the wide side — a call the bench disputed loudly — to give the hosts another shot at match point, and the Thunderbirds converted this time with Whitney Von Gorkom tipping home the final ball to win.

Von Gorkom was just one piece of an even-handed Tumwater offense that racked up the numbers over the course of five sets. Bella Burney led the T-Birds with 13 kills, Natalie Montoya-Kilmer had seven, and Von Gorkom, Zoe Giuntoli, and Madison Hurley all had six.

“It really diversifies everything, which makes the other team have to guess that much more,” Cichosz said. “If we only have one great player that all the balls are going to go to, every team is going to camp out on that hitter. When everyone’s contributing like that it makes the win that much easier. And my hitters, they’re so capable. They kind of learning that and getting that confidence, and that’s a game-changer for us.”

Setter Emily Robello had 39 assists for the hosts, to go along with nine digs and three aces. Burney had 12 digs to complete her double-double, while Brooklynn Hayes logged a team-high 18 digs. 

On the other side of the net, Ashley Harris dominated from just about every spot on the court for Black Hills. The junior outside hitter pounded a match-high 21 kills, while Payton Childers added eight from the middle and Ava Bauer had seven, with setter Alex Loveless — who racked up 40 assists on the night — set them up whether they were at the pin or in the back row.

“They’ve worked really hard to put themselves in good situations where they’re able to terminate offensively,” Black Hills coach Paige Walker said.

But the Wolves ran into problems of their own doing in the sets they lost, from start to finish. In both the first and third, Tumwater took close sets early and went on runs, building momentum off of a few untimely miscues. In the fifth, six of the Thunderbirds’ first eight points came off of Black Hills errors or bad passes.

“I think we do a good job capitalizing when the other team makes those mistakes, just getting in their heads a bit more,” Cichosz said.

Black Hills will try to bounce Thursday when it hosts Aberdeen, a side it swept to start its first pass through the league back in September. Tumwater will face W.F. West; the T-Birds beat Chehalis in four in their first matchup.