KENNEWICK – There were many teams that wanted to be where the Mt. Spokane volleyball team was Saturday night.
Even if nobody but the Wildcats believed they could be playing for the State 3A championship at the Toyota Center.
Everything that went well to get Mt. Spokane to the final disappeared – much of it because of the Lakeside Lions.
Lakeside of Seattle captured its first state title, winning its 19th straight match in a 25-15, 25-15, 25-19 sweep at the Toyota Center.
Mt. Spokane (22-7) was never really in the match – at least in terms of putting a scare in the Lions (23-8).
At one point in the season Lakeside was 4-8. But that included matches in a high-powered tournament in Las Vegas.
The difficult competition more than prepared Lakeside for state.
Mt. Spokane had nothing to be ashamed of, though. There were 14 other state qualifiers that would have gladly switched finishes with the Wildcats.
“Lakeside has a big block and we were struggling to get around it,” Mt. Spokane coach Dave Whitehead said. “They played really well. I would like to play them on a day when we are fresh. I don’t know if we could beat them but I think we could give them a much better game.”
Mt. Spokane had to fight back from significant deficits in each set. The Wildcats didn’t have a rally in the first two sets, but they went down swinging in the final set.
The Wildcats pulled within 19-17 before the Lions pulled away.
Miahna Waters finished with nine kills – easily the least she had in four state matches.
“It’s been such a ride this year,” Whitehead said. “We’ve been through so much. My team is a total team of loving players who gave themselves to each other all year. We had injuries we overcame. Every team has injuries, but I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Talk about a thin margin of error in the semifinals. Mt. Spokane had a razor’s thin margin in a match that stretched five sets.
Mt. Spokane fell apart in the fourth set against talented Mercer Island, which forced a fifth set with an impressive 25-15 win.
The Islanders had leads at 14-13 and 15-14. And each time the Wildcats dug down and survived.
Tied at 15-all, Mercer Island made back-to-back unforced errors, allowing Mt. Spokane to escape with the win.
Waters was unstoppable, piling up 34 kills, 27 digs and seven aces. Freshman Malina Ama had 17 kills.
“That’s huge,” Waters said of not making late critical mistakes, “because every point matters in situations like that. We were diving all over for balls.”
Whitehead didn’t recognize his team in the fourth set.
“We were making errors,” Whitehead said.
Mercer Island forced Whitehead to change his defense multiple times, forcing the Wildcats to pinch in to cover dinks, dumps and tips.
“We were going back and forth (defensively). We had to,” Whitehead said of changing alignments. “They’re a great team. We had to change things up.”