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Colville seniors hope for perfect ending

The four seniors on the Colville volleyball team – Leanna Carr, Joellee Buckner, Jacy Vining and Jessie Glidewell – have been part of 96 victories the past three years.

They’ll hit the century mark with four more victories. They’ll match last year’s final record (34-1) with four more victories. More important, though, is four more victories will give them a second straight state championship.

The way the seniors see it, they should be seeking a third consecutive state title.

Two years ago, they went to state believing a title was well within their grasp. But a disappointing loss in their opener derailed that plan. They finished fifth, and the Monday after returning home they were immediately in the gym preparing for the following year.

The result last year was a dominating season in their final year in the 1A ranks. They swept all four of their opponents on the way to the state championship.

They joined the 2A Great Northern League this year, and the season has been every bit as impressive as a year ago. Their lone loss came to 4A Jackson at the Crossover Classic. At the time, Jackson was ranked No. 1.

All of Colville’s wins have been sweeps. Only Jackson has taken a set off the Indians.

Last year, their lone loss was to 4A Bellarmine Prep at the Crossover Classic.

It was easy to pinpoint the Indians’ motivation at state.

“When we lost to La Salle two years ago in our state opener, we were determined to make sure we weren’t going to lose at state again,” said Carr, a four-year starter at setter.

The seniors have been in the middle of Colville’s success this season. Carr and Buckner, a three-year starter, were selected as GNL co-most valuable players and Vining, a three-year starter, and Glidewell, a two-year starter, were first team all-league selections.

Carr averages 30 assists per match. Buckner, a rightside hitter, averages a team-high 15 kills. Vining and Glidewell, both outside hitters, each chip in eight kills.

The Indians don’t intimidate teams when they get off the bus. They have no player taller than Glidewell at 5-foot-10. Carr is 5-5.

Once they start swinging, though, the Indians earn immediate respect.

“Even though we’re all really short, we can all get up and hit really hard,” Buckner said. “We’re really a scrappy team.”

So what the Indians might lack in power, they more than make up for with precise serving, defense and ball control.

“Our practices are insane,” Vining said. “Our practices are harder than most of the games we’ve played.”

So is Colville better than last year?

“In some ways I think we might be,” Colville coach Missy Bennett said. “Our offense is more consistent this year. Leanna’s doing a better job getting the ball where our hitters can attack it.

“These kids have done an awesome job of dominating their competition. They haven’t let up. They haven’t played down to the level of the competition. In fact, I think they’ve stepped up.”

The seniors have had the most success of any group under Bennett. The previous best came when the Indians finished as state runners-up in 1997 and 1998.

What stops Bennett short of proclaiming this year’s team as best in school history is the unfinished business that awaits Colville when the state tourney begins Friday at Pierce College in Lakewood.

If there’s something that concerns Bennett, it would be blocking.

“We don’t have a shutdown blocker like we had last year,” Bennett said.

It will be quite a feat for the Indians to pull off a repeat. Colville is ranked fourth in the state coaches’ final poll. Tumwater, the team Bennett pegs as the state favorite, is first followed by Burlington-Edison, the defending state champ, and Selah.

“We’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us,” Glidewell said.

She’s confident nonetheless.

“We’re going to play some tough teams, but we’ll still push through and do just as well,” Glidewell said.

The seniors are quick to praise Bennett for their love and commitment to the sport. Carr started playing for Bennett in the second grade as an 8-year-old playing on a U-12 team. Vining and Glidewell joined when they were in fifth grade and Buckner came along in seventh grade.

“She’s had an amazing impact on us,” Carr said. “She always knows the right thing to say to get us to play at the right level.”

Glidewell agreed.

“She’s helped me with all my confidence and built me where I’m at now,” Glidewell said.

“Even though she pushes us hard, it makes me love the sport more,” Vining said.

All four have opportunities to play in college.

First they want another golden finish.

“We’ve had a lot of success because we do all the little things,” Vining said. “We do things that others don’t do. We lift weights every day. It’s been a lot of hard work.”

And well worth it.

“They want another state title,” Bennett said. “These kids play with a ton of passion and a ton of intensity. As long as they do that, they’ll be satisfied with where they finish.”

Then Bennett caught herself.

“That’s really not true,” she said. “We’re only going to be satisfied with a state title. It’s been our dream to back up last year’s state title with another one.”