MARYSVILLE — Three weeks ago Snohomish volleyball coach Alex Tarin saw Oak Harbor challenge his undefeated Panthers in five sets. Snohomish grew up that night.
The Panthers faced the Wildcats again Thursday with a state tournament berth in sight, and they showcased their development in a high-pressure environment with plenty on the line.
“They are more calm, more mature,” said Tarin of how his team has come together over the past few weeks. “We have a freshman who’s played all season long. You couldn’t tell she’s a freshman. We have sophomores, and you couldn’t tell they were sophomores. And our seniors are our heart and soul of the team.”
The Panthers needed that poise early.
Snohomish rallied to overcome a first-set deficit and rolled that momentum into a 25-22, 25-13, 25-19 sweep of Oak Harbor during a winner-to-state 3A Northwest District tournament semifinal match at Marysville Pilchuck High School.
Sophomore hitter Mackenzie Whyte paced a balanced Panthers attack with 14 kills. Natalie Stern added nine, and Sarah Campfield finished with seven kills and five blocks.
The win gives back-to-back state berths to Snohomish, which finished eighth at last year’s 3A state tournament.
“It’s so awesome going back-to-back,” Whyte said. “It’s so much fun, and the girls have worked so hard for it. I’m so proud of them.”
While Snohomish’s win came in three, the Panthers didn’t play well from the start.
Oak Harbor led the first set 6-2, 12-7 and 16-12 before Whyte propelled Snohomish to a 8-3 scoring run to take a 20-19 lead, the Panthers’ first of the set.
Oak Harbor brought the set to 22-21 before Snohomish took the game with a Campfield block sandwiched between a pair of Wildcat hitting errors.
“Volleyball is all about momentum,” Tarin said. “When I called my timeout in the first set, I told them we were fine. We started taking advantage of some mismatches and stuck to the gameplan that we had. We knew the spots we wanted to hit the ball, and the girls did a very good job doing that tonight.”
Snohomish met little resistance after the first set.
Three straight kills from Whyte put the Panthers in front 8-5 in the second set. A 7-0 run extended their lead to 17-9, and Snohomish cruised the rest of the way for a 25-13 win.
The Panthers trailed only once in the third set, 14-13, but Snohomish wrapped up the win claiming six of the third set’s final seven points.
Tarin praised setters Beth McBrien and Allie Graham, who setup Snohomish’s variety of hitters all night. The duo combined for 32 assists.
Next for Snohomish is a showdown against Ferndale (17-0), which is regarded as arguably the state’s most talented 3A school.
FERNDALE 3, STANWOOD 0
With a team as deep and talented as Ferndale, Stanwood coach Megan Amundson knew her team couldn’t afford many errors.
There were simply too many.
The Spartans continuously battled back but could never truly threatened Ferndale in a 25-21, 25-20, 25-12 winner-to-state 3A Northwest District tournament loss at Marysville Pilchuck High School.
The defeat sets Stanwood (13-4) up with a winner-to-state, loser-out match against Lynnwood at 11 a.m. Saturday at Marysville Pilchuck High School.
“Especially in the first two sets I was really proud with the way that they fought, because Ferndale is a really good team” Amundson said. “It was an unforced error game, and you can’t give a good team that many free points.”