After dropping a matchup in the 2A District 4 semifinals to Columbia River, the Tumwater volleyball team had to do something it hadn’t yet this season to make it to state for the second straight season, and the 14th time in the last 16 years.
Facing a Black Hills team that had beaten the Thunderbirds twice in the regular season and took home the league championship in a do-or-die, winner-to-state, loser-out match Saturday afternoon, the T-Birds persevered.
Going back and forth in every set, but coming out on top in each, the T-Birds swept the Wolves (25-22, 25-17, 26-24) in their auxiliary gym at Tumwater High School to advance as the sole representative of the 2A Evergreen Conference.
“It feels pretty fantastic,” T-Birds co-head coach Jill Guidice said. “The girls have earned it. They’ve worked hard all season, they’ve played really tough teams at tournaments and stayed up during all that and that’s what led to this win today.”
The Thunderbirds had a well-rounded effort in the sweep, with Bella Burney and Alyssa Duncan leading from the inside with 18 combined kills and four combined blocks, and Maddie Hurley contributing seven kills of her own.
Defensively, Emily Robello was everywhere, serving up five aces, dishing out 20 assists, and digging up 13 balls in the win. Both Robello and Hurley were praised by their coaches, Saturday.
“The way that (Robello) played defense today and the way that she served that ball, she went up to that serving line with so much confidence and so much power,” Guidice said.
Co-head coach Jordan Stray was had similar compliments for Hurley:
“She just came out fierce and was aggressive and finding the hole and playing really smart,” Stray said.
Now the powerhouse Thunderbirds will look forward to where the seeding committee decides to seed them Sunday in the 2A State tournament starting next Friday. Tumwater earned a share of third-place in District 4, and have now made the state playoffs 14 of the last 16 years, with one of those seasons being the COVID-19 shortened, and state-erased season.
“We are glad to continue it,” Stray said. “We know we’re following a pretty big legacy so it’s important to keep that going.”
For the Wolves, it’s a bitter end to an otherwise incredibly successful season. Black Hills lost just four games all season, and were undefeated in league play during the regular season, earning an outright league title. Returning most of their starters from this season next year, the Wolves graduate seniors Olivia Hisaw, Elena Jones, Nisyalie Rolon-Vazquez, Raeven Medwynter, and Sage Foust.