Unbeaten Lake Stevens confident heading into state tourney

The Vikings will face Graham-Kapowsin in the first round on Friday afternoon in Kennewick.

During the Lake Stevens volleyball team’s Monday practice, Vikings setter Lillian Eason spoke to her teammates about their objectives for the upcoming Class 4A state volleyball tournament, to be held Friday and Saturday at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.

“She basically said, ‘Hey, our goal is to win state this year.’ She said it with heart and passion. She believes this team can (win the tournament),” Lake Stevens coach Kyle Hoglund said. “Our girls are never happy with where they’re at, they always want to be better. They’re playing with confidence right now. They’re ready to go.”

The Vikings finished eighth at last year’s state tourney and brought back most of the players from that squad, including Eason, a Seattle University commit, and Hannah Aaenson, a second-team All-Wesco 4A outside hitter last season.

Lake Stevens hasn’t lost in its 16 matches, and has been taken to five sets just three times.

“About a quarter of the way through the season, the girls realized how good they were,” Hoglund said. “The biggest thing is they’re understanding what their ability is. They haven’t reached that peak yet.”

Jackson has come on strong lately to secure Wesco 4A’s second berth. Since being swept by Kamiak on Oct. 17, the Timberwolves (12-6) have won six of seven matches, including two playoff wins over the Knights.

“This is a bit of a building year — we’re not young in terms of age, but over half our girls are new to varsity,” Jackson coach Mindy Staudinger said earlier in the season. “We’re working through some of the kinks, and the girls are starting to figure out how to compete. We talk about winning the moment and staying within their skillsets. They knew if they do that, they can (be successful) for the long term.”

3A: Stanwood, Snohomish

Stanwood, which won the Wesco 3A regular-season title, returns to the state tournament, to be held Friday and Saturday at the Toyota Center in Kennewick, after a one-year absence. The Spartans (15-2) are an experienced team, with nine seniors and four juniors.

“The seniors have played a lot of high-level volleyball together, and (this state tournament) is a culminating project for them,” Stanwood coach Megan Amundson said. “They’ve really set the tone for this program during the past couple of years.”

Snohomish has been in must-win mode for some time; the Panthers (14-4) won their last regular-season match to avoid a 3A Northwest District tournament play-in game, then won two loser-out district tournament matches Saturday to secure a state berth.

“We’ve had an up-and-down season, but I think we’re peaking at the right moment,” Snohomish coach Alex Tarin said. “When we’re on, we can be unstoppable.”

1A: King’s, South Whidbey

King’s enters the 1A state tournament, to be held Friday and Saturday at the Yakima Valley SunDome, with a 15-2 record and a Cascade Conference co-championship, but will embrace an underdog role, according to associate head coach Bart Foley.

“What we lack in overall experience, we make up for with a balance of talent in all key positions,” Foley said. “Senior co-captains at setter (Tessa Foley) and libero (Elle Mason) keep us steady and lead the way while the firepower largely comes from underclassmen. In our two losses, we demonstrated a great capacity to learn and bounce back the next time out. We are excited about the opportunity to return to state after missing out for the first time in 13 years last year.”

South Whidbey returns to the state tournament for a second consecutive season. The Falcons (15-5) finished in third place in the Cascade Conference and won two Bi-District contests Saturday to keep their season alive.

“We progressed as the season went on,” South Whidbey coach Mandy Jones said last month. “There was never really a roller-coaster ride as there’s been in the past, we just kept going up. Everybody gets along on and off the court, and they all fill their roles really well.”

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