EVERETT – For a moment, the dynasty seemed in jeopardy.
But, as champions tend to do, Seattle Prep dug deep and steamrolled to its third-consecutive state title.
After starting slow, the Panthers bounced back to knock off the upstart Eastside Catholic Crusaders 3-1 in the Class 3A state championship volleyball game Saturday night at the Everett Events Center.
Prep (19-1 overall) won by scores of 16-25, 25-16, 25-18, 25-14.
“I think it’s just an amazing accomplishment,” Seattle Prep coach Gaylene Page said of the Panthers’ three-peat.
Asked about the possibility of winning again next year, Page physically swatted the thought with her left hand and said with a smile, “That’s so far away.”
Prep graduates seven stellar seniors, including outside hitter Cristina Payne, who charged the Panthers with booming kills and perfectly timed blocks all night.
Prep never doubted itself, even after struggling early.
“We knew what we had to do and we stepped up,” said Payne, who had 13 kills, two aces and two stuff blocks.
Prep senior Ch Oh, who had nine kills and two stuff blocks, noted a difference since claiming her first title as a sophomore. “I was in shock when we won the first one.”
This time, Oh and the experienced Panthers set their goal, securing a third title, long ago. “What a better way to end it,” she said.
Eastside Catholic coach Greg Lundt liked how his team finished, too. “How can you feel bad? Being from where we were, at 4-6 in (the Metro) league … and the 16th seed (at state). We can’t complain.”
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Lundt added. The Crusaders finished the season 15-8-1.
Eastside had not been to the state tournament in a long time. Exactly how long? That remains a controversy. One assistant coach mentioned 1985, but no one was sure. Joked Lundt: “Let’s put it this way: No one that’s alive is going to tell us.”
Shortly after shedding tears of pride, Eastside star Jackie White reflected on an amazing season. “We got second place. We were nothing before this. We did it,” said White, who had a game-high 15 kills.
White sparked Eastside’s early success, tallying fives kills in the first game. “She’s an aggressive hitter,” Prep’s Oh said. “The key was we shut down the rest of the players. If its six on one, we like our odds.”
And after Seattle Prep’s third-straight state triumph, who could argue?