Tumwater Volleyball Takes 5th Place in State



By Grant Clark

south sound radiologyThey had been the pinnacle of high school volleyball in the state all season. So, when top-ranked Tumwater High School walked off the court with the fifth-place trophy it was a bit of a surprise.

The goal all year for the Thunderbirds was to defend their Class 2A state championship. A loss in the quarterfinals to Burlington-Edison prevented that.

“It’s bittersweet,” said senior Jaeya Reed. “But hands down this is the best place to play volleyball. It’s such a family atmosphere. I have made so many best friends. Our main goal every single season is state champs and having such a high goal it’s really hard to come back from that, but I am so proud of our team. I wouldn’t have changed anything.”

tumwater volleyball
Tumwater High School’s Anela Cairns (#6) attacks the net with Maddy Pilon (#4).

Despite coming up short in their attempt to win the program’s third straight title and become the first team since the 2010 Pullman squad to register back-to-back championships, the T-Birds put together one of the best seasons in school history, finishing with a 20-1 record and adding some more hardware to the their already packed trophy case.

“All season we had the goal of state champs. We never thought about getting second. We’re not getting third. We’re going to be state champs,” said sophomore Kennedy Croft, who was spectacular during the two-day tournament. “At the beginning (in the consolation bracket) we were trying hard to be happy, but it really wasn’t working. It took us a bit to get back into it. When we did, we knew we wanted to finish off the season the best that we can.”

Tumwater saw its prefect season come to an end against Burlington-Edison in the second round, losing a thrilling five-set match (25-20, 22-25, 26-28, 28-26, 16-14) where the T-Birds twice had match point in the fourth game, but were unable to put away the Tigers, who went on to claim the state championships by defeating Ellensburg, 3-1, in the finals.

tumwater volleyball
Tumwater celebrates a point against Archbishop Murphy at the state tournament.

“It was just back and forth,” Tumwater coach Tana Otton said about the match against Burlington-Edison. “The deciding factor was they got the final point and we didn’t. I hope the team feels proud about their season. To only have one loss and have it happen in the state tournament against a great team is really impressive.”

The T-Birds, who defeated North Kitsap in straight sets to win last year’s 2A state crown, entered the state quarterfinals with an 18-0 record, having won 27 consecutive matches dating back to the previous season.

Included on the list of victories this season were wins over 4A state champion Curtis, 4A state runner-up Emerald Ridge and 3A state runner-up Columbia River.

It marks the second time Burlington-Edison has stood in Tumwater’s way of claiming a state championship. The Tigers also knocked off the T-Birds in the 2011 state final, 3-1.

The team rebounded from its only setback on the year by hammering White River (25-19, 25-22, 25-14) in a loser-out bracket before rallying to defeat Archbishop Murphy, 3-2 (21-25, 25-11, 26-28, 25-22, 15-11), to secure the program’s fifth straight state placing.

“It was really hard to get into motion today, but we just needed to fight for ourselves,” Reed said. “Tana told us the team with the more heart is going to win, and we ran with it.”

tumwater volleyball
The Thunderbirds capped a 20-1 season by placing fifth at the 2A state tournament.

Croft, who was named 2A Evergreen Conference MVP, showed exactly why she’s regarded as one of the state’s top underclassman as she finished with a remarkable 110 combined kills over the four state matches. She posted 28 kills in a three-set sweep over Franklin Pierce in the first round, 31 against Burlington-Edison, 21 against White River and 30 against Archbishop Murphy.

“My shoulder was getting tired out there,” the hard-hitting Croft said with a laugh. “This has been the most unified team. We are all best friends both on the court and off. We wanted to finish on a good note. We’re already really excited for next year.”

In addition to Reed, Tumwater will also graduate seniors Kaiya Weston, Anela Cairns and Senna Larson, but will return a bevy of talent next season.

“This has been one of the most enjoyable years to coach,” Otton said. “This team has been a dream. They are just easy. There’s zero adversity. Every day in practice it was just so fun to coach them. There wasn’t a day where I walked into practice and dreaded being there, and I don’t think they had one either.”


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