EVERETT – Just as everything seemed bleak, the Lynnwood Royals proved they are no pushovers.
Staring down a 3-0 deficit in the deciding fifth game against a pesky Ellensburg team, Lynnwood used strong serving and a slew of timely kills to rally and defeat the Bulldogs 15-12 for a 3-2 victory in a consolation match Friday night at the Class 3A state volleyball tournament.
After being shutout 3-0 by the Bainbridge Spartans earlier in the day, the Royals played with much more consistency and aggressiveness in knocking off Ellensburg 25-15, 20-25, 25-16, 25-27, 15-12 at the Everett Events Center.
Making an appearance at the state tourney following a one-year absence, Lynnwood (10-9 overall) plays Mark Morris (12-5) at 9 a.m. today in a consolation semifinal match. A win assures the Royals of placing in the top eight.
Molly Hunsinger, a senior outside hitter who led Lynnwood with nine kills against Bainbridge and 24 against Ellensburg, said the Royals were excited to advance to the tournament’s second day. “It is awesome. There is no better feeling,” she said.
Lynnwood coach Jean Kellogg said it’s the first time in school history the Royals have advanced to Day Two.
Kellogg said she hoped for a strong performance following the Royals’ first match, which they lost 25-20, 25-16, 25-18.
“Inconsistent,” Kellogg said of Lynnwood’s first-match effort. “We weren’t crisp.”
And how did she grade match two? “Great,” Kellogg said. “Hunsinger was a huge, huge contributor.”
Huge, and clutch – five of Hunsinger’s kills came in the deciding game, including three straight to give the Royals a 7-5 lead.
Senior Britt Thoreson also came up big, Kellogg said. The coach pulled Thoreson aside before the Ellensburg match and said, “When you play aggressive, people follow.”
Thoreson, who seemed tentative in Lynnwood’s early match, came through, leading both vocally and physically. She kept the Royals positive when they fell behind or made a mistake, and she tallied 12 kills against the Bulldogs.
Kellogg’s goal for her team coming into the tournament was to finish in the top eight.
“The biggie is tomorrow,” said Kellogg, who had plenty of post-game advice for her team. In a rapid-fire impression, Hunsinger gave a quick recap: “Go home. Hydrate. Hydrate. Have a snack. Go to bed.”
Joking aside, Hunsinger appreciates Kellogg’s methods. “She knows what she’s talking about.”
Entering the tournament, Hunsinger was the only Royal with state experience. That might had have been part of the reason for Lynnwood’s struggles against Bainbridge, Kellogg said.
The Royals had no such lapses against Ellensburg. Setter Julie Nguyen had 49 assists, and vertically gifted middle hitters Daylene Wilkie (nine kills, eight blocks) and Kelsey Ayres (nine blocks) stepped up.
The Royals were competitive for portions of each game against Bainbridge, but the Spartans put together huge runs to build insurmountable leads. In game one, Lynnwood led 18-16 before the Spartans surged ahead with six consecutive points. Another five-point streak by Bainbridge midway through the third game sealed Lynnwood’s defeat.
High-flying outside hitter Michelle Miller paced Bainbridge with 16 kills, including the match-winning spike.
“She was an awesome hitter,” Hunsinger said of Miller. “She hit line and angle.”