For large parts of this season, things seemed to come easy for Keira O’Neill and the Napavine Tigers.
With O’Neill leading the way, the Tigers lost just four regular season games before taking third in the District 4 Tournament to secure their spot at the state tournament for the second straight season.
O’Neill was a force at the net all season long, leading the area in kills (487) and blocks (88) while also tallying 100 digs and 54 aces.
In addition to being the team’s go-to outside hitter, O’Neill was the team’s vocal leader, consistently bringing energy and intensity when the team needed it the most.
“I’ve always been kind of extroverted, so I felt like if no one is going to do it, why not me,” O’Neill said. “Plus, it’s fun. It makes it more fun to be loud and excited.”
While the Tigers’ last two seasons have ended in Yakima, O’Neill says that they still went through their share of growing pains together.
“We went from sucking really bad together to really improving and playing an entirely different game of volleyball,” O’Neill said. “We definitely turned into a family.”
O’Neill’s volleyball family has also extended beyond Napavine, as O’Neill also got to know many of her opponents, including players that she has played or currently plays club volleyball with.
“It was nice to grow with those girls and understand their way of playing,” O’Neill said. “It just made it so much more fun to grow up with the same girls.”
It also includes longtime coach Monica Dailey, who has coached O’Neill since she was in elementary school. O’Neill said that it will be weird not playing for Dailey anymore, adding that Dailey’s belief in her propelled her forward throughout her youth and high school career.
O’Neill is still weighing options for her athletic future, one that includes potential avenues in both basketball and volleyball at the collegiate level.
“It’s just been a growing process,” O’Neill said. “I’m really thankful for everything at Napavine and all the opportunities that they gave me.”
The Chronicle’s 2023 All-Area Volleyball Team
Erin Cournyer Mossyrock
The 1B Columbia Valley League MVP picked up a good deal of the slack left by the graduations of Payton Torrey, Hailey Brooks and Paige Houghtelling, totaling 293 assists, 186 kills and 57 aces to lead Mossyrock to third place in 1B.
Karsyn Freeman, Adna
The final piece for an already-loaded Adna lineup came in from Raymond over the summer and dropped 329 kills, 189 digs and 73 aces, earning first-team all-C2BL honors, turning the Pirates into true state contenders for at least one more season.
Dakota Hamilton, Napavine
The second half of Napavine’s dynamic duo — with O’Neill — Hamilton had arguably an even fuller statline at times, finishing her senior season with 333 kills, 516 assists, 179 digs and 85 aces.
Ashley Harris, Black Hills
Harris followed up a breakout fall as a junior with an even better senior season. The 2A EvCo MVP finished with 463 kills, 199 digs, 53 aces and 41 blocks, leading the Wolves to their first placing at State since 2011.
Brooklynn Hayes, Tumwater
Tumwater had a fair few offensive options at the net this season, but in the back row, the T-Birds relied on their first-team all-EvCo libero, who logged 318 digs as a senior and also put down 64 aces.
Kendall Humphrey, Adna
The leader of a balanced Adna attack, Humphrey earned Central 2B League MVP honors with 348 kills, 181 digs, 75 aces and 21 blocks across the season, pacing the Pirates to an undefeated season and the district title.
Emalie Jacoby, Onalaska
If there was a breakout star in the Central 2B League this season, it had to have been Jacoby, who moved west from Davenport and introduced herself to Lewis County with 454 kills, 238 assists and 69 aces as a freshman.
Allyson Ooms, Rainier
Rainier’s own star freshman did a bit of everything in her first year in orange and black, with 267 digs and 162 kills, helping lead the Mountaineers to their first state placing in Yakima in school history.
Lauren Wasson, Centralia
Wasson, a 2A EvCo first-teamer, was at the center of Centralia’s resurgence this season, racking up 208 kills and 192 digs as the Tigers made it back to the 2A district tournament.