ARLINGTON — Just four points earlier, Jasett Smith had spiked a potential match-winner into the net.
But when her number was called again moments later, the Snohomish freshman was ready.
After a diving save by teammate Lauren Riske and a perfectly placed set by Bethany McBrien, Smith rose above the net and fired home a match-winning kill to lift the visiting Panthers to a dramatic 22-25, 25-23, 25-19, 18-25, 17-15 victory over Arlington in a thrilling Wesco 3A showdown of unbeatens Thursday night.
“The point before that, I was so upset,” Smith said. “But I’ve been taught all my life to not give up. I don’t give up. That’s not an option. So I just swung as hard as I could (and) hoped it went in.”
After Smith’s match-winner deflected off an Arlington player and fell to the ground, players from Snohomish’s bench poured onto the court and converged with their teammates in a euphoric celebration.
“I was so happy,” Smith said of her reaction. “I was so happy.”
Smith’s deciding kill capped an incredible back-and-forth match full of twists and turns, captivating rallies and spectacular plays. The two teams traded blows all night in front of an electric crowd at Arlington High School, and the five-set thriller wasn’t decided until extra points in the final frame.
“That was one of the best regular-season games I’ve ever been a part of,” Panthers coach Alex Tarin said.
With the victory, Snohomish (8-0 overall, 8-0 Wesco 3A) kept its perfect record intact and remained in a first-place tie atop the conference standings. The only other team still undefeated in Wesco 3A play is Stanwood, which swept Oak Harbor in another matchup of unbeatens Thursday night.
Arlington (7-1, 7-1) fell into a third-place tie with Oak Harbor in the Wesco 3A standings.
The match began in seesaw fashion, with the two teams separated by two points or less for nearly the entire opening set. Arlington, which was missing several players due to injury, eventually gained just enough separation for a 25-22 win.
The Eagles then built a 15-7 advantage in the second frame, but Snohomish rallied and closed on a 9-2 run to even the match with a 25-23 victory.
In the third set, the Panthers fell behind once again before rattling off a key 13-2 run on their way to a 2-1 match lead.
“We’re very confident in our offense,” Tarin said. “We know that if we can get our passing down, then our offense is going to click.
“We had a lot of hitting errors at first. I don’t know if there were nerves or what it was. But once we got our offense going, we knew that we can roll against anybody with our offense.”
Arlington was on its heels early in the fourth set, facing a 12-6 deficit. But the Eagles rallied with a 19-6 run to even the match and force a deciding fifth frame.
Snohomish led for the entire fifth set until Smith fired her potential match-winner into the net, tying the score at 14-14. But on the very next point, after being gifted an easy ball off a desperation Arlington save, Smith slammed home a short-range spike to force match point.
Then, after the teams traded points, Smith delivered the final blow in the epic five-set clash.
“We just worked really hard,” Panthers senior Grace Raper said. “And we really, really wanted to stay undefeated.”
SNOHOMISH’S TOP PERFORMERS
Raper led the Panthers with 14 kills and sophomore MacKenzie Whyte posted 13 kills, five digs, four blocks and three aces in a strong all-around performance. Smith also had 13 kills — including the match-winner — and added 18 digs.
Senior Natalie Stern totalled a team-high 42 digs and eight kills. Riske added 38 digs — including the diving save to set up Smith’s winning spike — and four aces. Senior Allison Graham provided a team-high 27 assists and eight digs.
ARLINGTON’S TOP PERFORMERS
Junior outside hitter Arianna Bilby totalled a team-high 18 kills, four aces and 19 digs. Junior setter Caroline Diemer provided 26 assists and 11 digs.
Sophomore Paige Richards had 23 digs and junior Reese Talbot posted 21 digs and nine kills. Senior libero Madelin Frolich added 20 digs.
Arlington coach Whitney Williams said her team was missing several players due to injury.
“I played some younger girls, and I think that may have contributed (to) just a little bit of inexperience in a high-pressure situation,” she said. “But what an awesome experience for all of them. … We played really hard, and now we know what we can do going forward.”