Tigers Upend Warriors in 5 on Senior Night


In a highly-emotional and tightly-contested regular season finale for both the Centralia and Rochester volleyball teams, the Tigers got the upperhand late in a five-set win over the Warriors Thursday night at Ron Brown Court, 25-16, 23-25, 28-26, 20-25, 15-13. 

Trailing in both the third and fifth sets and coming back from both to win, the Tigers needed every last point to beat a highly-motivated Warriors squad looking to spoil Centralia’s senior night. 

But in both those third and fifth sets, on a night the Tigers celebrated seniors Peyton Smith, Tatum Johnston, and Maddie Buchanan, the upperclassmen came up in a big way to ease Centralia into the postseason with some momentum. 

Down 11-7 in the fifth, Smith came up to go on a big serving run to help even the game before the Tigers pulled off the victory, and Johnston helped control the net in the victory. 

Smith ended up with 39 assists, 23 digs, five aces, and a nearly immaculate serving night with just two misses on 33 attempts. Johnston finished with 20 monster kills and a perfect 13 for 13 on serves. The third senior, Buchanan, had seven digs in a winning effort in the back row. 

“When we went into the fifth set, we talked about the team being the most relaxed, composed, and with the better energy was going to win,” Tigers coach Marti Smith said. “Peyton and Tatum in the later part of the match, they were making some amazing hustle plays.”

Not to be completely outdone by its seniors on their night, Lauren Wasson added 11 kills and 22 digs, Gracie Schofield had 24 digs, Hollynn Wakefield added eight kills, and Emily Wilkerson had 10 kills and five big blocks. 

Though, for a while, the Warriors were giving the Tigers fits in their final game of the season. 

“I just wanna give major props to Rochester tonight,” Smith said. “Their defense was on point tonight, they read really well, their girls pushed hard on every point, their net play, their blocking was stellar. They absolutely made it difficult on us tonight. Bridget (Morris) should be so proud of her team tonight, they gave us fits. They’re energy, they had it all tonight.”

Rochester’s coach, for her part, was proud of her team’s effort Thursday night in their final game. Though the Warriors might have peaked a bit too late in the year, they most certainly saved their best for last. 

Senior Kassidy Byrd had nine digs and played well defensively for the Warriors, Roisin Stull added nine kills, 16 digs, and two aces, Lauren Rotter had five kills to go along with 23 digs, Hailey Angwood had nine kills, three blocks, and four aces, and Kylee Wild was praised by Morris for her defensive play to round out the Warrior senior class. 

Delany Winter had six kills for the Warriors and Cheyenne Justice also had 18 digs in the loss. 

“When it came down to it at the very end, even though they didn't pull out the win, they put their hearts out there and left everything out there,” Morris said of her team. “I’m super proud of them. This is a team where we never took games from some of these top teams in the past, they definitely held their own this year. 

“I will miss those seniors for sure, they're a great group on and off the court.”

But Thursday night was about Centralia’s seniors, which stuck with the program through highs and lows and finished out the regular season in 2022 with a victory. Though Senior Night was Thursday, the Tigers will have one more chance to play at home in Centralia next Tuesday when they play R.A. Long in a pigtail contest before the district tournament next Thursday. 

If the Tigers win, they advance to play Greater St. Helens League champion Columbia River, if they lose, their season is over. 

Head coach Marti Smith said that what made celebrating her seniors Thursday night especially special was watching them grow up in the program since middle school. 

“It’s all about their heart,” Marti Smith said. “They’re amazing, great, good kids. Any coach would be so lucky to have them. They adapt, and they don’t look at changes being a negative thing. That’s what's going to make them great adults when they leave Centralia High School.”