LYNNWOOD — The day after Meadowdale’s loss to Oak Harbor in the first round of the 3A District 1 volleyball tournament, Mavericks head coach Machen Shrum did something she had never done before.
“I kicked them out of the gym,” Shrum said of her team.
It was a risky move, but it paid off as the Mavericks won their next three matches to advance to the state tournament where they face University at 3:15 p.m. on Friday at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey.
Before losing to the Wildcats, Meadowdale had lost just three matches all season — nonleague losses to Everett and Lynnwood and a league loss to Mountlake Terrace. Oak Harbor took Meadowdale to five sets, but the Mavericks looked like they would survive, leading 14-10 in the final game before the Wildcats went on a run to stun the Mavs. Meadowdale was sent to the consolation bracket where it would need to win the remainder of its district tournament matches to advance to state.
Shrum didn’t like the focus she saw from her team the following day at practice after losing such an important match.
“We practiced for about a half hour to 45 minutes,” Shrum said. “(It was) flat, no energy, no response to coaches. I had my assistant coach talk to them a little bit and try to get them back on track. There was no fire in them at all and I could hear them talking about things other than volleyball and it just set me off.”
So Shrum turned to drastic measures and “politely” asked them to leave the gym.
“I said, ‘I cannot coach you today, and you need to go home,’” Shrum said.
Shrum didn’t know what to expect from her team knowing that it had a match against Shorewood the following day with the season on the line.
“I said to my assistant that they were going to be phenomenal or they were just going to fall apart — and they were pretty phenomenal,” Shrum said.
The Mavericks defeated the Thunderbirds in straight sets, but still needed two victories to get to state. The next team standing in their way was Mountlake Terrace, a team they had beaten 3-0 in the first match of the season, but lost to in five sets in the rematch. The victory against Mountlake Terrace didn’t count in the league standings, while the loss did and was the only thing standing in the way of an undefeated league season and an outright Wesco 3A regular-season championship. Instead, the Mavericks split the title with the Hawks, who also earned a higher seed based on the head-to-head victory.
So needless to say, when the Mavericks found out they would be playing Mountlake Terrace, they were excited at the opportunity for revenge.
“We don’t like it when people beat us,” senior setter Tara Fishback said.
The Mavericks needed four sets to eliminate the Hawks from the postseason and went on to defeat Stanwood in straight sets to advance to state for the fifth time in six seasons.
Had the Mavericks held on to beat Oak Harbor, which went on to lose to Ferndale in the district championship match, they could have just as easily been district champions. But the girls are just happy to be back in state.
“I’m not going to dwell on what could have been,” senior middle blocker Sloane Morrison said. “Let’s just make the best of what it can be from here on out.”
Shrum said she isn’t sure if the move to send the girls home from practice after the loss to Oak Harbor is what turned things around, but there is no denying that the Mavericks’ level of play dramatically improved in their next three district matches, dropping just one set.
“I don’t know if it had any merit to it or not, but they played really well the rest of districts,” Shrum said.
What the Mavericks have proved this season is when they are faced with adversity, they know how to respond.
The 3-1 loss to Everett in the second match of the season was the team’s first test and they bounced back to beat Edmonds-Woodway, which tied with Lake Stevens and Snohomish for the Wesco 4A regular-season championship.
“I saw them bounce back when Everett beat them, so I saw that they have that fire when they get beat,” Shrum said.
The Mavericks won seven of their next eight matches before falling to Mountlake Terrace. The Hawks record said they were one of the best teams in the league, but Meadowdale beat them in straight sets to open the season.
“Maybe we walked into it a little unassuming,” Shrum said. “I think it is kind of like the Everett thing. They needed that maybe to kick them into gear. I just hope we don’t need more of those little shocks because we don’t have that much time left.”
Perhaps the Mavericks were motivated by the disappointment that came from missing state a year ago after four consecutive appearances.
“I think that is what might have made a difference,” Fishback said. “Last year we expected to go no matter what and then this year we were willing to fight for it and put in the effort.”
Libero Amy Rickel, Fishback and Morrison are three of nine seniors on this year’s team, but the only players who were on varsity when the Mavericks last advanced to state two years ago.
“It was important because we have so many seniors this year,” Rickel said. “We feel like all the seniors should deserve to go to state at least once in their volleyball careers.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.