With a concluding surge, Hoquiam simultaneously ended its five-set jinx and flipped the script on this season’s volleyball rivalry with Elma.
Fighting off a match point in the fifth set, the Grizzlies outlasted the Eagles, 25-18, 19-25, 18-25, 15-11, 16-14, in an Evergreen 1A League contest Tuesday, Oct. 25, at Elma.
Hoquiam’s victory created a logjam for the league’s final three district slots behind league champion Montesano. The Eagles (4-3, 6-7) currently own a one-game advantage over Hoquiam (3-4, 5-9) and Forks for second place. Elma visits Forks and Hoquiam hosts Tenino in league finalés Thursday.
The top four teams qualify for district competition next week.
Junior Karlie Krohn led the Grizzlies with 16 kills and 24 digs. But classmate Kamimi Papp was Hoquiam’s go-to person down the stretch, getting the final touch on the final seven HHS points.
Elma’s versatile Kenna Stoney delivered her customary fine all-around performance. Although primarily a setter, the junior also led the Eagles in kills with nine.
The Grizzlies have struggled in five-setters this season, although they’ve often rallied from significant deficits merely to reach the final stanza. That was the case in the first meeting with Elma at Hoquiam Square Garden, in which Hoquiam erased a two-set deficit only to have the Eagles prevail in five.
This time they maintained their poise after Elma erased a trio of three-point deficits in the final set.
“We communicated (better),” Hoquiam coach Heather Bozich said. “They stopped second-guessing (themselves) and they wanted the ball, they were aggressive in going for the ball…And I was proud of the adjustments the girls made. We knew they were going to shoot the corners and tip and (we covered them).”
In a match filled with missed serves (the teams combined for 19 service errors) and drastic momentum shifts, the fifth set was a see-saw affair.
Kacey Pelan served four straight points (the last on an ace that an Eagle accidentally touched as it was apparently sailing wide) to give Hoquiam an 8-5 lead. The Eagles fired back to go up 10-9, but the Grizzlies countered with the next four points — two on Papp kills — to stand two points from the match at 13-10.
Following a side-out and a Grizzly hitting error, Elma’s Ana Perez served a clean ace to tie it. Stoney then found an opening on one of her patented dumps (a fake set that is pushed across the net) to give the Eagles match point at 14-13.
Papp saved that with a hit that Elma could not return. The Grizzlies then reached match point of their own when the Eagles passed too close to the net in attempting to return another Papp spike.
Then Papp buried a kill just inside the baseline to close it out.
“We just weren’t playing consistent,” Elma coach Kendra Henry said. “Hoquiam came out with a lot of fight and played scrappy. They were the better team tonight.”
Hoquiam’s ReyLynn Dunn connected on 28 of 29 serves, with four aces. Three of the aces came in a 11-point serving streak in the opening set.
Pelan handed out 18 assists and Paige Folkers 12 for the Grizzlies, while libero Ashley Paladin brought up 21 digs.
Perez had 34 digs and freshman Quin Mikel 19 digs for the Eagles. Coach Henry also commended the play of seniors Kaylee Rambo and Katy Perez, who were honored in Senior Night Festivities.
Hoquiam took the JV contest, 25-14, 17-25, 15-8.
Forks downed Elma in three sets in an Evergreen 1A League finalé on Thursday, Oct. 27.
The Eagles (4-4, 6-8) finished in a three-way tie for second in the league, but will enter district competition as the fourth seed. They will face Trico League champion La Center in a district opener Wednesday, Nov. 2, at Castle Rock.