Montesano edged by La Center in district volleyball final

Riding the momentum from taking a tense third set, La Center figuratively and literally blocked Montesano’s bid for a district volleyball championship.

The Trico League champion Wildcats outlasted the previously unbeaten Bulldogs, 25-19, 23-25, 27-25, 25-13, to win the District IV Class 1A Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 5, at Castle Rock.

La Center (16-2) maintained the Trico League’s stranglehold on this tournament’s hardware. Montesano’s 2006 championship remains the only northern division district title since the current 1A classification was structured.

Already assured of a repeat trip to state, the Bulldogs (16-1) will join the Wildcats and Castle Rock in representing the district at the state 1A tourney beginning Friday at the Yakima SunDome.

After eliminating Elma, 25-14, 25-12, 25-12, earlier in the day, Castle Rock downed Trico League rival King’s Way Christian in four sets (25-17, 25-20, 21-25, 25-19) to claim the tourney’s third and final state berth.

Wildcats 3, Bulldogs 1

Both teams performed at a high level for the first three sets, with far more points decided on winners than errors.

If the Wildcats had an edge, it was in the ability of their front-row performers (particularly Maddie Stimmel and Laynie Erickson) to neutralize Montesano’s power with frequent stuff blocks.

Even so, Montesano coach Debbie Gibson was among those who believe the outcome was decided in a back-and-forth third set.

After trailing 19-18, the Bulldogs took the lead by reeling off four straight points — including a pair of Jordan Spradlin kills and a third by Josie Toyra.

They were two points from a 2-1 lead in sets, at 23-21, when Spradlin delivered a spike that landed just inside the baseline.

La Center countered with the next three points, two on Erickson kills, to go up 24-23.

Monte’s Janessa Otterstetter saved one set point by digging up a Wildcat hit and eventually ending the point with a kill. It was 25-25 moments later after Spradlin followed a Monte double-hit violation by by putting away a Hannah Hatcher set.

But La Center’s Stimmel answered with a kill and then blocked a Bulldog tip to finally close out the set.

The wind visibly taken out of their sails, the Bulldogs fell into a 5-1 hole opening the fourth set and never gained traction.

At that, they staved off five match points before Erickson finally ended it with a kill.

“That was kind of a turning point for them and it deflated us,” Gibson said of the third set. “That’s volleyball, when someone takes the momentum from you, it’s tough to recover.”

Spradlin was her usual productive self at the net, finishing with 34 kills and three solo blocks. Shayla Floch added 11 kills and Hatcher 34 assists.

The reliable Toyra was 19-of-19 from the service line and contributed 13 digs. Libero Josie Talley brought up 15 digs.

“All in all, I’m proud of them,” Gibson said. “We’ve got three practices to regroup and we’ll see what happens when they get over to state.”

Jordan Spradlin hammered 56 kills in two matches as the Bulldogs clinched a state berth with a pair of victories in the District IV Class 1A Volleyball Tournament Wednesday, Nov. 2, at Bo Griffith Memorial Gym in Montesano.

Following a 25-20, 18-25, 25-17, 25-14 opening-round victory over White Salmon, the unbeaten Bulldogs swept Castle Rock, 25-10, 25-19, 25-19, in the semifinals.

Despite multiple state appearances, this is only the third time the Bulldogs have advanced to the district title contest, according to Gibson.

Incredibly, Montesano’s 2006 squad is the only northern team to win a championship in a tournament traditionally dominated by the Trico League.

Shayla Floch put down 35 kills and setter Hannah Hatcher dished out 76 assists in the two contests. Josie Toyra, Monte’s leading server for the season, put all 40 of her serves (20-of-20 in each match) into play.

Gibson gave a large share of the credit to her team’s back-row defense, particularly that provided by Toyra, Josie Talley and Hannah Manley.

“When we’re passing, we have the capability of getting the job done,” the veteran Montesano coach said. “Everybody sees the attack, but they don’t see how the ball gets there.”

Montesano 3, Castle Rock 0

Spradlin had 27 kills and Floch 14 in this contest on Nov. 2. Each also contributed three solo blocks.

The Bulldogs were on fire from the outset. Toyra served 10 consecutive points, with Spradlin delivering six kills during that stretch, to stake the hosts to a 16-2 bulge in the opening set.

After Castle Rock sliced a 19-12 deficit to 21-19 in the second set. Floch delivered a kill and a stuff block. Then Hailee Dierks knocked off an overpass and the Rockets could not return Janessa Otterstetter’s serve on set point.

The third set featured eight ties and five lead changes. Floch served four straight points, including an ace, to put the Bulldogs on top to stay at 22-17.

After her kill gave the Bulldogs match point, Spradlin blasted away a Hatcher set to close it out.

Hatcher dished up 34 assists while serving three aces. Talley brought up 15 digs, one more than teammate Toyra.

Montesano 3, White Salmon 1

Unable to put away their standard quota of hits while White Salmon was playing excellent defense on Nov. 2, the Bulldogs were stymied for two sets by a Bruin club that entered the match with a 4-10 record.

“Honestly, I thought we might have been looking past White Salmon a little bit,” Gibson said. “We came out kind of tentative. We were playing afraid to lose instead of playing to win.”

The Bulldogs, however, found their rhythm late in the third set to survive five missed serves in the stanza. They closed out that set with a 7-2 run, then dominated the fourth.

Spradlin and Floch combined for 50 kills in this match.

Hatcher had 42 assists and 19 digs, Talley 27 digs and Toyra 14 digs.