Friends for life, rivals at the net

EDMONDS — For most of their 17 years, Maddie Houvener and Julianne Kossian have been about as close as two girls can be.

They exchange text and phone messages throughout the day. They go on vacation trips together. And they stay at each other’s houses. So often, in fact, “that we don’t call them sleepovers anymore,” Kossian said. “She has her own toothbrush at my house. Her own drawer.”

The two Edmonds girls are, Houvener said, “like sisters. She knows me better than anyone.”

They are so close, in fact, it is hard to imagine anything coming between them. Yet for a few hours tonight, it will happen.

Houvener and her Edmonds-Woodway teammates host Kossian and the Mavericks tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Houvener is a senior setter for the Edmonds-Woodway volleyball team. Kossian is a senior outside hitter and team captain at Meadowdale. This evening, and for the second and final time of their high school careers, they will square off on opposite sides of the net.

“It’s going to be fun because we challenge each other and push each other to play harder,” Houvener said. “But we don’t get mad at each other, like if she gets a good kill or if I dump the ball over her. It’s just fun to compete against each other.”

A year ago Meadowdale swept the Warriors 3-0, “and it’d be great to beat them again (tonight),” Kossian said with a laugh. “I’ll rub it in her face for years to come.”

Edmonds-Woodway and Meadowdale both draw kids from Edmonds and Lynnwood, so the two schools are natural rivals. Regardless of the sport, many of the athletes know each other well.

In fact, the players on the two volleyball teams know each other so well, “we all hang out together,” Houvener said.

Of course, those affections get pushed aside tonight. The Warriors “are all very excited to play Meadowdale,” Houvener said, “and it would mean a lot if we could beat them. … It’s always a good game and it’s always intense. We’re both out for blood.”

Both teams have reason for optimism this season. The Mavericks are coming off a seventh-place finish at the Class 3A state tournament a year ago, and although they lost two top seniors from that team _ setter Payton Shrum, who is playing this season at George Fox University, and outside hitter Lindsay Milner, who is playing at Central Washington University _ Kossian believes Meadowdale can be as good again this season.

“We’re very tough mentally,” she said. “We stay really focused and just play point by point. … For sure our goal is to place higher than seventh at state this year. We talk about that a lot.”

For Houvener, meanwhile, a trip to the Class 4A state tournament this year would be her first in three varsity seasons at Edmonds-Woodway.

“That’d be very special,” she said. “I haven’t been to state before and it’s my senior year, so it’s time to do it.”

The Warriors, she went on, “really mesh well. Normally when a team doesn’t work out good, you have drama on the team, but we don’t have any drama whatsoever. The coach has really brought us together as one team, so I think it’ll be a good year for us. And I think state is a realistic possibility.”

Regardless of how tonight’s match turns out, Houvener and Kossian will continue a friendship that began when they were young girls and has grown every year.

The funny thing is, they have never attended the same school over the years. But that will change in the fall when they go off to college together, likely in California.

“I kind of turned her on to the idea of California because I’ve always wanted to go (to college) there,” Houvener said. “She wanted to stay around here, but I planted the seed in her head, and then when we went to (visit schools in) California and we both really liked the campuses.”

“We have our top five schools in the southern California area that we want to go to,” Kossian said. “But if one of us gets in and the other doesn’t, we won’t go there. Because we’ll (be together), no matter what.”

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