KENNEWICK – It got late in the match Friday night at Toyota Center, and Mt. Spokane was trying to put away Prairie.
That’s when Wildcats senior star Miahna Waters looked at Mt. Spokane coach Dave Whitehead and said, “Feed the Beast! Feed the Beast!”
Waters wasn’t referring to herself, but to sophomore Malina Ama.
The 5-foot-10 front-liner was promptly fed with great passes, and she came up with eight of her 14 kills in that final game. Mt. Spokane finished off Prairie to win the State 3A volleyball quarterfinal 25-21, 25-21, 25-23 over the Falcons to earn a semifinal berth.
It was a day that saw both Spokane schools – Mt. Spokane in the 3A and Mead in the 4A – each go 2-0.
They also are following the same pattern as last year, when they both advanced to their respective finals.
For Mt. Spokane, it was a dominant Friday, winning all six of its sets.
“We play our best, and if we win, we win,” Whitehead said. “It’s a team that all 14 of them this year have contributed. It’s been a fun ride.”
The Wildcats meet Mercer Island, again, in the semifinals at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“We had a great semifinal last year with Mercer Island,” said Whitehead, whose team won that 3-2 and eventually lost in the state finals to Lakeside of Seattle.
Friday’s quarterfinal match started two hours late, thanks to some five-set battles on Court 1 before the Wildcats’ game.
“It’s definitely hard because you’re warmed up and ready to go, then you have to wait,” said Waters, who finished the game with 16 kills and 17 digs.
Yet it didn’t seem to bother the Wildcats, who came out ready to play.
“I think we were so good coming out,” said Ama, who added 14 kills and five aces. Mt. Spokane broke a 17-all tie and finished the first game on an 8-4 run.
Waters said the Wildcats needed to find a way to neutralize Prairie’s Zoe McBride. The standout outside hitter still got 16 kills and 10 digs.
But they also forced McBride to tip the ball too many times.
The second game was also tight, tied at 20 when Ama had two kills and a great tip shot to finish off the Falcons.
The third game was also tight at 22-all. But a kill by Ama, a block by Abby Newcomb and a game-ending kill, fittingly by Waters, ended the match.
Whitehead was especially pleased with his middle blockers, whose play allowed outside hitters like Waters and Ama to excel.
Junior Katie Rhodes was one of those middle blockers, who had some key blocks during the match.
The Wildcats disposed of their first-round opponent, North Thurston, with ease.
Ama had 12 kills to lead Mt. Spokane to a 25-17, 25-15, 25-17 sweep.
Waters added 14 digs and three aces for the Wildcats, while teammate Katie Maher added 14 assists and Rhodes had three blocks.
Now, it’s a battle with Mercer Island today.
“We need to get a good night’s sleep,” Whitehead said. “We have a trophy (now). Our goal at the beginning of the season was to get to state. Then we play the best that we can.”
Ama can consume something besides volleyball passes.
“I can eat some food now,” she said after the win.
It took the Panthers a bit to get going in the late-night quarterfinals, losing the first set against Kennedy Catholic 25-23.
But slowly, Mead began to settle down.
In the second game, the scoring was balanced, with Jordan Shoff leading the way with three kills, and Mead won 25-19.
The Panthers took control in Game 3, breaking a 10-10 tie by going on a 15-4 run to close it out for a 25-14 win.
This time, it was Maddy Lee who dominated, scoring on three kills and three more nicely placed tip-in shots.
But Kennedy tried bouncing back in Game 4, breaking out to a 5-2 lead, thanks to kills by sophomore Haley Moore.
The Panthers worked themselves back into the game, and Kendall Buries’ blocked shot knotted the game at 16.
From there it was back and forth, until Buries had another blocked shot to clinch the win at 27-25.
It was Lee who dominated the fourth game with five kills.
Mead trounced Eastmont 25-13, 25-22, 25-14 in the first round.
“We expected to win 3-0,” Mead coach Shawn Wilson said. “But I thought we could’ve played a lot sharper. I just thought we struggled.”
In that match, Lee had a team-high 12 kills and two blocks. Elena Gardner added 13 digs.
“Maddy had a good match,” Wilson said. “But we need to step up more than we did.”
The Panthers are hoping to get a shot at Auburn Riverside, which beat them in last year’s state title match.
“I think there is a chip on our girls’ shoulder,” Wilson said. “Auburn Riverside just took it to us last year. We want a shot at them.”
But first, the Panthers must play Curtis in a 1 p.m. semifinal Saturday.
Pullman and East Valley dropped into Saturday consolation matches in the tournament at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey. Pullman will play Sehome at 10:30 a.m. EV will meet North Kitsap at 8:30.