Snohomish senior Ayla Grant celebrates after winning a point during the Panthers’ state-clinching victory over Ferndale in the 3A District 1 Tournament semifinals Thursday night. (Katie Webber / For The Herald)

Snohomish senior Ayla Grant celebrates after winning a point during the Panthers’ state-clinching victory over Ferndale in the 3A District 1 Tournament semifinals Thursday night. (Katie Webber / For The Herald)

Snohomish volleyball outlasts Ferndale, clinches 5th consecutive state berth

The Panthers finally get past their district nemesis with a tense 5-set win in the 3A District 1 semifinals.

MARYSVILLE — Year after year at the district tournament, Ferndale had been a major thorn in the side for the Snohomish High School volleyball program.

Not anymore.

The Panthers finally got past the Golden Eagles.

And in doing so, they secured another trip to state.

Top-seeded Snohomish clinched its fifth consecutive state berth and outlasted fifth-seeded Ferndale for a tense 21-25, 25-15, 25-16, 18-25, 15-11 triumph in a Class 3A District 1 Tournament semifinal Thursday night at Marysville Pilchuck High School.

“I am so proud of them,” Panthers coach Morgan Doyle said. “They’ve worked hard this entire season to put their best effort into every game. And it really came through tonight. … They’ve worked their butts off for this.”

This marked the sixth consecutive district tournament that these two programs have met.

Ferndale swept each of their previous five district matchups — with victories over Snohomish in the 2016 quarterfinals, the 2017 semifinals, the 2018 and 2019 championship matches and the 2021 semifinals.

But this time, the Panthers (17-1) finally solved their district nemesis. It ended Ferndale’s run of four consecutive district titles.

“It was just such an incredible feeling,” Snohomish senior Liviya Harrison said. “For years, they’ve been our rivals. We know we’re gonna see them at districts every year.

“I think this accomplishment for us was not only our team, but these past (Panthers teams). It just means a lot to the whole program. We really earned it.”

After dropping the first set, Snohomish controlled the second and third frames to take a 2-1 match lead. The Golden Eagles (14-5) bounced back in the fourth set, closing on a 16-5 run to even the match and force a deciding fifth frame.

But the Panthers answered right back. Snohomish scored the first three points of the final set and eventually pulled away, prevailing in a highly competitive showdown that was filled with long rallies and big momentum swings.

“I was very anxious the entire game,” Doyle said with a laugh. “For the girls, they did a great job being consistent with their energy. … They did a great job keeping that energy heightened the entire time.”

Harrison had a strong all-around performance with six kills, two aces and 19 digs. So did Snohomish senior setter Ayla Grant, who totaled eight kills, nine digs and 30 assists.

Junior outside hitter Kelsey Nichols led the Panthers with 10 kills. Senior opposite hitter Adriannah Galvan added nine kills and four digs. And junior Ellie Wetmore provided 14 digs for the Wesco 3A/2A champions.

“Our defense did really good,” Doyle said. “My libero (Anika Smith) and my setter (Grant) did an amazing job defending the ball and also keeping it back on their side of the court with aggressive plays. They did a phenomenal job with the defense.”

Snohomish has won 17 consecutive matches since suffering a season-opening non-league loss to crosstown rival Glacier Peak.

With their latest victory, the Panthers advanced to face second-seeded Meadowdale in Saturday’s district championship match. The Mavericks swept third-seeded Monroe in the other semifinal.

After that, Snohomish will make another trip east of the Cascade Mountains for the 3A state tournament Nov. 17-18 in Yakima.

“We’ve put in a lot of hours and a lot of dedication,” Harrison said. “And it just feels so good to be going back (to state) again.”

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