State Volleyball Preview: Vikings Eye Fourth Consecutive Championship Game
TO THE DOME: Mossyrock Will Try to Get Back to Title Game With Different End Result
By Matt Baide
The Mossyrock Vikings are set to make another run in the State 2B Volleyball tournament, beginning on Thursday at the Yakima SunDome.
The Vikings are coming in with confidence after being in Raymond on Saturday, defeating Kalama to win their first district championship.
“They’re confident. They’ve worked really hard to have a successful season. They were first in league, first in districts. They have a lot to be proud of,” Mossyrock coach Alex Nelson said. “The state tournament, you can’t go over there and not play well and have success.”
Mossyrock is no stranger to the state tournament after three consecutive appearances in the state title game.
Last season, the team lost their setter Shania Hadaller before the state tournament and had to practice with a different lineup just days before the state tournament. The Vikings made an improbable run back to the state championship game, defeating Walla Walla Valley Academy, Kalama and Liberty (Spangle) before falling to La Conner in the championship game in four sets.
In 2017, the Vikings lost in the district title game to Napavine. They were on their game in the state tournament though, defeating Walla Walla Valley Academy, Brewster and Northwest Christian (Colbert) to reach the championship game against Colfax. After losing the first two sets, Mossyrock battled back and won the next two sets, but fell 15-11 in the fifth set.
All the way back in 2016, when the current seniors were freshmen, the Vikings made another incredible run to the state championship game. Mossyrock defeated Darrington and then shocked the state with a victory over Colfax. The Vikings took down Napavine in the semifinals before losing a five-set thriller to Kalama in the championship game.
“It doesn’t hurt to have that experience. If you’ve never been there, it’s a big platform. It feels different when you get to state. You don’t know what it’s like until you’ve been there. There’s nothing like state,” Nelson said. “We definitely have some great experience on the team. We hope they bring their experiences into this year and can explain to the younger players how to keep your composure and stay calm. When they talk about it, their teammates will listen.”
The Vikings are no strangers to their first round opponent, Walla Walla Valley Academy. Mossyrock has played them in each of the last two years in the opening round and won both times.
“Walla Walla Valley Academy has been over there a lot. We’ve met with them a few times in recent years,” Nelson said. “They’re a good program making it to state regularly. We’ll have our work cut out for us and we look forward to the challenge.”
The bracket did not set up kindly for the Vikings. The defending state champions La Conner as well as Colfax are on the same side of the bracket as Mossyrock, arguably the Top 3 teams in the 2B ranks.
“It’s a little frustrating with a lot of talented teams on one side that are highly ranked in coaches polls. The Top 3 teams are on one side of the bracket. That’s a little frustrating to see on one side,” Nelson said. “We’ll have to compete against those teams if you want to have success at the tournament anyways. We can’t get frustrated with what the bracket presents for us, there are tough teams every step of the way.”
The team has a lot of experience but there are some players coming off of injury, including Shania Hadaller and Amy Fitzhugh. Both players will see plenty of time in matches when needed and Nelson noted that those two as well as every girl in the program are important to their success.
“A lot of those girls that have played with each other are an important part of the program. That’s why throughout the season, they are all important, all of their contributions have been important,” Nelson said. “Without that competitive practice, we wouldn’t be where we are. They don’t always get to play as much in these bigger games, but I’ve rewarded them throughout the season. That’s why I have two, three different lineups, as a thank you and saying ‘You’re why we’re better.’”
They were inspired by a speech at the beginning of the season with the slogan ‘Swing Away’. If the Vikings can do that on Thursday and Friday, they might be heading back to Mossyrock with a championship trophy.
“We’re hoping to play our best while we’re over there. If we do that, we’ll be happy with our play,” Nelson said. “It’s about staying composed. You get to state and you get amped up. It’s not like any other experience. We’ll go over there and stay composed, fight it out and in the end, hopefully, we’re where we want to be.”