The Vikings and Spartans, who squared off for years as members of the Wesco North conference, met for the first time as nonleague foes Tuesday night. Lake Stevens, which plays in the 4A Wesco North, defeated Stanwood in straight sets 25-23, 26-24, 25-19.
"We have a good rivalry with Lake Stevens," said Stanwood head coach Erik Titus. "When you see a team a lot, that rivalry develops."
It'll be the only time the two teams see each other this season, with the Spartans now in the 3A Wesco North league. Both teams begin conference play on Sept. 23 -- Lake Stevens at Mount Vernon and Stanwood hosting Oak Harbor -- so Tuesday's game was a chance to get a little tune-up in before the conference schedule started.
"We're trying to get our passing and tempo in check, so we're in control of the matches," said Vikings' head coach Amy Wiklund. "We didn't do that for stretches in this game."
Lake Stevens led for most of the match. The Vikings took all three sets, weathering a few Stanwood runs, to improve to 4-1 overall this season. Stanwood, which was also 3-1 coming into the game, fell to 3-2.
In the first set, the Vikings had a 14-12 lead before eight straight Stanwood points pushed the Spartans in front. Lake Stevens worked its way back, tying the score at 23 while closing out the first set with a 5-0 run.
In a back-and-forth second set, Lake Stevens junior libero Alexis Alverson hit the ball over the net from her knees after diving to the floor in an attempt to send back a previous hit. The ball fell to the floor on the Spartans' side, giving the Vikings a 23-21 lead, en route to a 26-24 win.
Alverson finished the game with 18 digs.
"They're a good squad," Titus said. "They scrambled and picked up crap I didn't think they could. They finished and made plays. We didn't. That's the difference in the game."
The Spartans rallied to make the third set interesting, holding off Lake Stevens for three straight match points and bringing the score to 24-19. But a Stanwood serve went long on that point, and the Vikings clinched the win.
The six points were the biggest differential of any set.
"When you have two good teams, that's the kind of game you expect," Titus said.
Kendall Swanson had five kills, four blocks and was a perfect 16-for-16 serving and senior captain McKayla Huntley had five kills and four blocks for the Vikings. Emily Vandergrift added four kills.
Wiklund also singled out Christiana James, who plays in the middle of the court. James had five block kills, six kills and seemed to constantly be near the ball.
"I really think she had one of the best games she's had all season," Wiklund said. "Those numbers aren't huge, but she was touching stuff all over the net. I'm excited to see how that carries over (to later games)."
Krista Titus had 19 digs and Rebecca Hardenbrook hit 10 kills to lead Stanwood, which impressed the Lake Stevens coach with its ability to get to -- and return -- the Vikings' hard spikes.
"Stanwood is a great team," Wiklund said. "They picked up a lot of stuff. They're pretty scrappy. Most teams we play this season should be just as scrappy."
Each team has one more nonconference game to get ready for next week's league openers, and the two teams both want to use that game to get a little better before the games start to really count.
Erik Titus's goal for Stanwood was pretty simple.
"We need to finish," he said. "You can't give a good squad like Lake Stevens opportunities."
And while Wiklund appreciates the extra few games to learn, she believes that she and the Vikings are ready for those league games.
"We're still working on things, even though we're winning matches," she said. "That's a good place to be. It's fun and it builds confidence for the girls and that's good.
"... But we are ready to start playing some stuff that counts."
At Lake Stevens High School
Stanwood 23 24 19 -- 0
Lake Stevens 25 26 25 -- 3
Highlights--Stanwood: Krista Titus 19 digs; Rebecca Hardenbrook 10 kills. Lake Stevens: Alexis Alverson 18 digs; Christiana James 5 blocks. Records–Stanwood 3-2 overall. Lake Stevens 4-1.
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