Tigers Focusing on Being Present Heading into State Weekend


The Napavine volleyball team certainly has pretty good reason to be miffed heading into their first state trip since 2017. 

After punching their ticket with a thrilling victory over Toutle Lake in the 2B District 4 semifinals last Wednesday, the Tigers found out Sunday that they’ll be playing those same Ducks in the first round of the state tournament on Thursday at the Yakima Valley SunDome. 

Even worse, if the Tigers were to get past the Ducks in the first round, they would likely match up against No. 1 seed Kalama in the second round, a team they faced for the district title on Saturday. 

It was a disappointing bracket release after a big turnaround season for Napavine, who was ousted in the district tournament a year ago, and though qualified for the state tournament in 2020, didn’t get to make the trip because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We’re really excited to make a return to state,” Tigers coach Monica Dailey said. “We qualified during the COVID year, but these girls are super young and would’ve been freshmen that year. They haven't had that experience yet, they’re really excited, they have a great attitude in regards to our draw. 

“They told me, ‘we’re going to state, and that’s all that matters.’”

Napavine’s players have made a habit of making the best of tough situations this season, and it’s been a big reason why the Tigers have enjoyed the success they have this year. 

After finishing fourth in the Central 2B during the regular season and suffering a defeat to Toutle Lake in the last week of the regular season two weeks ago, the Tigers avenged the loss in the district tournament and finished second in districts to the champion Kalama last Saturday. 

If one thing’s for certain, the Tigers know exactly what their first opponent is bringing to the table come Thursday. 

“We’ve gotta win regardless of who we play,” Dailey said. “The pro is that we know our opponent and we’re prepared for them, we have less prep work for that first opponent. The con is they also know us. At the end of the day, we’re still going to have a blast and it's going to be a great experience.”

This will be the first time any Napavine player currently on the roster will make the trip to the SunDome for state, but it's not the first time these Tigers have played in that environment. Napavine got its feet wet at a tournament in Yakima in December, which featured much of the chaotic and loud play that the SunDome will feature this weekend. 

Though it was just a taste of the environment, and without the stakes of the state tournament, it was an experience the Tigers can draw back on for this moment. 

“This group does a good job of not getting overwhelmed with a lot going on,” Dailey said. “They’re used to environments with a lot of other games going on and other noise going on. They’re going to have some nerves but we have to battle through that.”

No matter what happens, win or lose, the Tigers have put most of their focus on staying present in the moment. That shift started a few weeks ago in preparation for the tournament and win-or-go-home district games, and so far, the Tigers have passed each test. 

“We have to play in the now, we need to not look ahead and play in the moment,” Dailey said. “We focused a lot the last couple of weeks on focusing on each point and game and being present in the moment.”

The Tigers take on the Ducks at 11:45 a.m. on Thursday at the SunDome in the first round of state.