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West Valley (Yakima) defends title at Linda Sheridan Volleyball Classic

When the field is assembled early next month for the State 4A volleyball tournament, West Valley (Yakima) coach Katie Hinckley expects her team, Auburn Riverside, Mead and Tahoma to be among the qualifiers.

Hinckley’s Rams, behind a balanced attack and solid defense, swept Auburn Riverside 25-15, 25-19 to defend their championship in the 23rd annual Linda Sheridan Volleyball Classic on Saturday at Ferris High School.

“I guarantee you that all those teams will make it (to state),” Hinckley said. “They’re all very, very talented. Out of the years we’ve been here, that was the most difficult route to get the title for sure.”

Outside hitter Jillian Berg finished with nine kills for the Rams, who improved to 24-0.

Parker Webb, a 6-foot-1 right side hitter, put away match point. She supported Berg with seven kills.

“Early in the day it was slow and we were tired and didn’t have energy, but we brought energy and more focus later,” Berg said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be handed to us. We got our minds in gear and worked really hard.”

Auburn Riverside (20-2), ranked No. 1 in the state coaches’ poll, appeared like it might roll to the title after handling Mead 25-19, 25-18 in the semifinals. Left-handed setter Ciera Zimmerman kept the Panthers off balance and hitters Anna Maracich and Calley Heilborn were efficient.

But it was a role reversal in the final, as the Ravens’ defense struggled against WV’s multipronged attack.

“Against their hitters we just didn’t match up well,” AR coach Chris Leverenz said. “And we didn’t play good enough defense. They’re pretty talented. Taking nothing away from them, but we could have given them a better match.”

Leverenz said some breakdowns in serve receive kept her team from finding an offensive flow.

In the first set in the final, the Rams used a 9-0 run to build an 18-8 lead. Three times the Ravens cut the deficit to seven but couldn’t get closer.

The second set was back and forth. A hitting error allowed AR to pull within 18-17 before WV pulled away.

An ace by Erica Meyer put WV comfortably ahead 23-18.

WV defeated Coeur d’Alene 25-17, 25-15 in the other semifinal.

In a one-set match to decide third, Mead (14-1) handled CdA 25-15.

Mead coach Shawn Wilson said the tourney was exactly what the Panthers needed.

“(Auburn Riverside) had better ball control than we did, which took us out of our game and that’s why it ended up like it did,” Wilson said. “It lets us know that we have more work to do. It sends a message and there’s no relaxing. I’m happy overall with how we played this weekend. We played some tough teams.”