Tumwater High School junior middle blocker Alyssa Duncan was named the 2A Evergreen Conference volleyball Most Valuable Player as seven Thunderbirds earned recognition from the conference.

“Alyssa is one of the most competitive people on the court. She wants to win and be the best,” said Jordan Stray, who shares co-head coaching duties with Jill Giudice. “She works hard in the off season, training in both volleyball and track. She also began to recognize her role as a leader in our program this season which was really fun to watch.”

In addition to the 6-foot-1 Duncan, Tumwater, which finished 9-3 overall and advanced to the district tournament after placing second in the EvCo, also had first-team all-conference honorees in freshman Brooklynn Hayes and senior Andrea Hanson; second-team selections in junior Kira Turcotte and sophomore Isabella Burney; and honorable mention picks in senior Karmella Gearhart and freshman Emily Robello.

“I was very surprised, excited, and humbled to be recognized by all of the coaches in our league,” Duncan said. “This has been such a crazy year. I am just so happy and grateful that we’ve been able to play sports. I will always remember my teammates and how we were able to come together and bond in such a short time. They are serious, but also fun and goofy. I love them.”

Tumwater placed seven players on the all-Evergreen Conference team, including MVP Alyssa Dunan. Photo courtesy: Tumwater High School

Alyssa paced the T-Birds with 2.4 kills per set while registering a hitting percentage of .228. She also had a 91.6 serving percentage and notched 2.09 digs per set despite being a front row player.

“Her confidence and ability to overcome frustrating situations has improved so much this season,” Stray said. “And her hitting (has improved too). Her teammates trust her to put the ball away, which can be seen by her stats.”

Setting Alyssa up for most those kills and directing the Tumwater offense was Hayes, the team’s starting libero who was the only freshman all-conference recipient among the first or second teams.

Duncan, a junior, goes for a kill against Centralia. The Thunderbirds finished the year 9-3 and advanced to the district tournament. Photo courtesy: Tumwater High School

“Brooklynn is just fantastic,” Stray said. “We started thinking she might be an outside hitter but quickly transitioned her to libero. She is so calm and focused and eager to improve. She anticipates the ball very well and has a wicked serve. I am just so excited we get another three seasons with her.”

Hayes was first on the team in assists, digs and aces per set, and set a program record by recording 19 aces in a single match.

Rounding out the list of first-team selections for the T-Birds was Hanson, an outside hitter who was second on the squad with 2 killers per set.

“Andrea is a natural born leader,” Stray said. “She did a great job this year alongside Karmella as our captains. They both were always eager to help and passionate about their team. We added two other seniors, Libby Boyd and Mckenzie Decker, to the group this year. While they may not have seen as much playing time, they were both always ready to go in and support their team.”

Second-team Burney led the team in blocks and tied the Tumwater single game record of seven blocks against Centralia, while Turcotte added 1.51 kills per set and was third on the team in total blocks.

Duncan (No. 1) attempts to block a Black Hills player. The junior led the T-Birds in kills during the 2021 season. Photo courtesy: Tumwater High School

“We had almost an entirely new starting line up on the court this year,” Stray said. “By the end of the season, we found ourselves wanting more and more opportunities to play because they were improving so much. They had just started to really hit their stride and mesh well together as a team. And we’re just so grateful to have had the opportunity for a season.”

The T-Birds opened the season with 3-0 loss to conference champion Centralia before sweeping their next three opponents. Following a five-set defeat in its rematch against the Tigers, Tumwater responded by posting a season-best six match winning streak to end the regular season. The T-Birds saw their year come to an end at the district tournament with a loss to Woodland.

“This team is so amazing. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to coach them though we wish our season could have been longer,” Stray said. “We will definitely miss our senior group and are looking forward to getting back into the gym again soon.”

Black Hills had a pair of first-team all-conference performers in senor Katelyn Bonds and junior Olivia Hisaw and two honorable mention picks in senior Irene Kim and sophomore Alex Loveless. Rochester’s lone placement on the all-EvCo team was sophomore Roisn Stull.

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