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State volleyball preview: Mt. Spokane, Mead ranked among best in state heading into tourneys

The Greater Spokane League had one team reach each of the State 4A and 3A volleyball tournaments – one that fairly cruised to its spot and the other that scratched and clawed the whole way.

Regardless of how they got there, Mead and Mt. Spokane are ranked among the best in the state in their respective classifications and will battle in the fields of 16, starting Friday at the Yakima SunDome.

3A

Mt. Spokane, the defending State 3A champion, has been ranked as the No. 1 team in 3A all season by the state coaches association. The Wildcats have a deep, talented squad led by 2018 State 3A Player of the Year, senior Malina Ama.

“I don’t think Malina has to carry us at all,” Mt. Spokane coach Dave Whitehead said earlier this season. “We have so many good players that it doesn’t fall on her shoulders, but we can go to her when we need her.”

Tia Allen, a junior outside hitter, and her sister Teila, a sophomore setter, were both named second-team all-state last year. According to Whitehead, 6-foot-2 senior middle blocker Abby Newcomb “has been the best leader I’ve had in a long, long time,” and junior Taylor Miche is “the best libero in the city – all 4-foot-10 of her.”

The Wildcats went 9-0 in league, losing just three sets, and 23-2 overall – splitting two matches with State 4A qualifier Puyallup (25-6) in the Yelm Tournament and falling to 4A Tahoma (31-3) in the Linda Sheridan Classic.

The Wildcats lost only one set while beating Kennewick and Kamiakin in the District 8 tournament last weekend.

“This is a team that has, at times, has been as good as I’ve had,” Whitehead said. “And that says a lot.”

Mt. Spokane takes on Seattle Prep (16-5), second in the Metro-Mountain League, in a first-round match Friday at 8 a.m.

“We are so blessed and so excited to get to do this again this year,” Whitehead said. “We have a lot of experience. There are some amazing teams we get to play and the GSL really gets us ready.”

4A

Mead – second at state in 2017 – outlasted University, Ferris and Gonzaga Prep to finish at the top of the GSL 4A ranks at 7-2, tied with U-Hi. The Panthers are ranked No. 4 in Class 4A entering the tourney.

They swept Hanford in a first-round match at the District 8 tournament before needing four games to get past Chiawana in a semifinal. The title match, against Richland, was a five-setter, won by Mead with a 15-13 victory in the deciding set.

Seniors Allie Flynn (setter), Nicole Bantilan (outside hitter) and Kendal Buries (middle hitter) were all-league selections last season and have paced the Panthers in 2019, along with senior middle hitter Ashyiah Mitchell.

Mead faces Auburn Riverside (11-5), the North Puget Sound-Olympic champ, in a first-round match Friday at 11:45 a.m.

Overall records courtesy MaxPreps.com