STANWOOD — The hard-hitting Devon Martinka peppered the Snohomish volleyball team’s defense with a record-setting performance, but it wasn’t enough to dent the Panthers’ perfect record.
And now, Snohomish is on the doorstep of clinching the Wesco 3A crown.
The Panthers overcame another massive performance by the Stanwood star and remained unbeaten with a 25-22, 25-27, 25-20, 25-21 victory over the Spartans in a pivotal showdown of conference-title contenders Thursday night at Stanwood High School.
“We knew that they’d be going to their main stud player — probably the best player in Wesco,” Snohomish coach Alex Tarin said of Martinka. “And it was all-out effort by (our) whole group tonight, for sure.”
Martinka, a senior, finished with 29 kills, breaking her own school record of 28 kills that she posted in a five-set win over the Panthers last season. The 6-foot-2 outside hitter and Division-I college prospect also matched a team high with 19 digs.
“Nobody keeps her in check,” Tarin said. “She’s such a good player.”
Last year, Snohomish fell victim to Martinka’s record-setting performance in a hard-fought loss. This time, the Panthers overcame the towering standout’s heroics and took down the defending league champions in four sets.
“We just really wanted to beat them this year and stay undefeated,” Panthers senior Natalie Stern said. “We really wanted to get them back.”
Snohomish kept its perfect record intact and is on the verge of clinching the Wesco 3A title. With three league matches remaining, the Panthers (11-0 overall, 11-0 Wesco 3A) hold a 1.5-game lead and the head-to-head tiebreaker over second-place Stanwood.
RARE WEEK OF LOSSES FOR STANWOOD
Stanwood entered this week undefeated and riding a 24-match conference win streak, having lost just four sets combined in those previous 24 league matches.
But after being swept by Arlington in Tuesday’s rivalry match and falling to Snohomish, the Spartans (10-2, 10-2) suddenly have lost six of their last seven sets.
However, Stanwood coach Megan Amundson said she was pleased with the fight her team displayed after Tuesday’s loss.
“I was really proud of my girls tonight for taking a hard loss at Arlington and turning it around,” she said. “They came into practice yesterday ready to get better, and I think that showed today.
“We came in with the right mentality. There’s just a couple things that we need to shore up. It’s not any major changes that we need to make — it’s small things.”
In the opening set, Snohomish closed with three straight points for a 25-22 win. The Panthers were on the verge of also taking the second frame, but Stanwood rallied from set point, reeling off a 9-2 run to earn a 27-25 victory that evened the match.
The third set was deadlocked at 20 until a spike by Stern kick-started a string of five straight Snohomish points that gave the Panthers a 2-1 match lead. Snohomish then gained just enough separation in the latter portion of the fourth frame to pull away for victory.
SNOHOMISH TOP PERFORMERS
Stern led the Panthers’ balanced attack with 11 kills, three aces and 24 digs. Sophomore MacKenzie Whyte also had a strong all-around performance with 11 kills, two aces, four blocks and five digs.
Junior Lauren Riske provided a team-high 27 digs, senior Grace Raper added nine kills and sophomore Sarah Campfield had eight kills and four blocks. Senior Allison Graham tallied a team-high 18 assists and senior Bethany McBrien added 17.
“We’re so balanced,” Tarin said. “It’s hard to defend us because you don’t know who’s defending the set. Our setters do a great job of spreading the ball out. We have defense that’s up there competing every play.
“And I tell our passers all the time, ‘You get that ball up — even (to) that 10-foot line — we have the hitters to put the ball away.’”
STANWOOD TOP PERFORMERS
Martinka added another milestone to her stellar career, breaking her own single-match kills record from last season despite having one less set to do so.
Senior libero Veaya Carter matched Martinka with a team-high 19 digs and senior Kaitlin Rash added four kills and 18 digs.
Senior outside hitter Paityn Palmer posted four aces, five kills and 12 digs. Senior middle blocker Jordyn Foxen provided eight kills and two blocks.
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