KENNEWICK – Tears fell by the buckets for the Mead volleyball team Saturday night.
The Panthers put it all out there but their all fell well short of the well-oiled machine that is Auburn Riverside.
The Ravens swept Mead by a 25-21, 25-13, 25-18 count in the State 4A tournament championship match at the Toyota Center.
It’s the Ravens’ first 4A state title and they won two years ago in 3A.
“It’s painful right now,” Mead coach Shawn Wilson said. “You have your goals set really high and you want to be No. 1 at the end. Everybody knows only one team can be there. It’s sad because when you’re in that championship (match) you go out losing if you’re in second place. You don’t feel like you’ve won but in reality this team has had a fantastic year. It’s going to take a while for them to realize it.”
Mead couldn’t must enough efficient offense to counter an Auburn Riverside team that made few errors.
In the first set, Mead made too many serve errors. Wilson thought the mistakes were caused by his players reaching for perfection with the thinnest margin for error.
The Panthers (24-3) trailed most of the opening set. They pulled within 22-21 on a kill by Maddie Lee, but the Ravens ran off the final three.
In the second set, Mead was in a big hole from the get go. The Ravens ran off 10 straight points for a 13-3 lead. The closest the Panthers got thereafter was seven.
In the third set, the Ravens again opened a comfortable cushion. But Mead fought back, pulling within 15-14.
But the Panthers got stuck in high center as the Ravens (34-2) outscored them 9-3 to close out the match.
Wilson tipped his hat to the Ravens.
“They played fantastic,” he said. “We didn’t have some answers for some things they were doing. They earned it. They played better than us.”
It’s the second time Mead has lost to the Ravens. They beat the Panthers in the semifinals of the Linda Sheridan Classic in early October.
“We didn’t feel like we played well the first time,” Wilson said.
And the Panthers played worse Saturday.
Lee led Mead with 10 kills. Calley Heilborn led the Ravens with 18 kills.
Earlier in the semifinals, Mead played its worst set of the tourney in the opening game of the semifinal.
The Panthers found themselves behind 17-11 and fought back to tie it at 19-19 before Kentwood pulled away 25-20.
Mead shook off whatever ailed it, putting away Kentwood in the next three sets.
It wasn’t without some tests, though. Kentwood tied it at 22-22 in the fourth set. But Lee accounted for the Panthers’ final three points – one on a block, the next on a kill that crawled over the net and the final point on a kill off an overfeed.
“It was crunch time,” Lee said of her finish. “We had to put the ball down. We couldn’t leave it up to them to make mistakes. We had to take care of business.”
Lee couldn’t wait for the final match.
“We still need to visualize how it’s going to go and mentally get ready,” she said. “We just have to get in the right mindset.”
Wilson didn’t mince words about the first set.
“It was a poor set for us,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of confidence, easily our worst set of the tournament. Towards the end of the set we started relaxing a little bit. As we kept going I thought we were getting more and more confident.”