Sports Beat: Gig Harbor volleyball beats Peninsula as teams finish tied for second in league
An ESPN banner hung over a tabletop at center court, with three Peninsula students energetically playing their parts as announcers for a girls volleyball showdown between Gig Harbor and Peninsula on Wednesday, Nov. 1.
Full student sections from each school saw some fantastic volleyball with leaping kills, quick-handed saves, running serves, high-velocity spikes, and several all-out dives on the unforgiving hardwood of the Seahawk court.
Both teams did all of those things and more as the Gig Harbor Tides (11-6, 9-5 South Sound Conference) finished off a wild fourth set, 25-21, to walk out of the gym with a 3-1 victory in the last conference game of the year. Gig Harbor’s win avenged a loss to the Seahawks (10-6, 9-5) earlier this season.
Peninsula wins first set
The stars were out early. Senior playmaker Lydia Ward got the Tides off to a 3-0 lead lead in the first set with a couple of hard serves and a timely dink. Peninsula’s Ziah Sneva, a junior, answered with a few huge spikes to tie the game at six. Every time the 6-foot-2 inch Sneva hits the ball, it sounds different. The Seahawks student section yelled “BOOM” in unison as her rockets bounced off of defenders.
Gig Harbor senior Natalie Piasecki went cross-court for a winner, teammate Payton Heim fired three consecutive aces and Hannah Artman spiked to get the score to 15-16. The Tides scored seven of eight points when Sneva rotated out of the game.
With the score 24-18, Seahawk sophomore Kate Cardinal served a change up floater at just the right time. Her arm moved quickly but the ball sank after it crossed the net. The sweet serve landed softly for an ace as multiple Tides dove for the ball, but Cardinal’s beauty gave her team a 25-18 first set win.
Back and forth in second, third sets
The second set had multiple lead changes as neither team would relent. Sneva was again dominant early, but the Tides got a roof block from middle blocker Sophie Shaffer, who came up big all night. The senior leaped high above the net to knot the score at 10-10.
The Tides surged ahead to a 16-11 lead when Sneva left the floor. Peninsula libero Evalyn Sutherland dug out a few hard shots and senior Avary Young was on point, swatting a winner to get Peninsula closer.
Then Tide sophomore reserve Ellie Hawkins came on the court. She hit multiple aces off her hard, flat serves to stretch the score to 21-15 and give the Tides some breathing room. Gig Harbor closed out the second set when Ward’s quick shot off another fake set helped the Tides win, 25-21.
The third was even closer. Gig Harbor won it when Maggie Maharry — undersized for an outside hitter at 5’7” but quick and clever — hit a deceptive touch shot that went over two blockers to end it at 25-23.
A fourth-set battle
The fourth set was much of the same and reminded one of a heavy weight title fight. Both teams’ setters (Ward and Peninsula’s Mackenna Moloznik) and liberos (Heim and Sutherland) were diving and throwing their bodies around with reckless abandon.
Each player displayed just how physically demanding volleyball is. They slammed onto the court, repeatedly banging their hips and even their heads off the wood floor. If you haven’t heard the screeching sound a player’s skin makes when it’s being ripped off of a forearm, elbow or knee, then you haven’t been to a Seahawks vs. Tides volleyball game.
The Tides jumped out to a 7-2 lead after Artman’s excellent touch shot winner. But Peninsula answered as soon as Sneva got into the game. Her three kills got her team the momentum and a 10-8 lead, causing Tide coach Slade Klein to call timeout.
From there, the back-and-forth affair got even more intense. The fourth-set score was tied at 10, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20-20 and 21 before Artman hit a dink over a blocker for a 22-21 lead.
In the previous game between these two teams, a 3-2 Seahawk win on Oct. 5, the Tides had their opportunities in the fifth set but tightened up and didn’t finish against a team that had collected state hardware the previous two seasons.
The Tides were different on this night. They went to their senior leaders, Piasecki for a hard kill and then Ward for a rocket-ball ace to get the score to 24-21. The Tides got the final point on a Seahawk shot that landed just long to earn a 3-1 match victory.
The win left the Tides and Seahawks tied for second in the South Sound Conference.
Gig Harbor coach Klein has his team peaking going into the playoffs. They came close to knocking off the state’s No. 1-ranked Class 3A team, North Thurston, on Oct. 24, losing 3-2. Then secured a big win over an experienced Seahawk team a week later.
One of the Tides’ strengths is that they are so balanced that opponents can’t just key in on one or two players. Everybody can make plays and they are now playing with the swag and confidence of a dangerous team.
“Peninsula is a great hitting team so we knew we needed to work on our blocking and try to win at the net. We took them to five last year and had a match point before falling, as the last time we won was in 2020,” Klein said. “It was great to get the win against a great team, and what has been an outstanding Peninsula program over the last few years.”
Peninsula second, Gig Harbor third at soccer district tournament
The Peninsula girls soccer team, seeded fifth at the district tournament, eliminated top-seeded Gig Harbor with a 2-0 win on Nov. 1 at Mount Tahoma High School. It’s the second straight year the Seahawks defeated the Tides at districts.
Peninsula later lost on penalty kicks in the district championship game against second-seeded Stadium. Both the Seahawks and Tides advanced to the regional round of state tournament competition by virtue of finishing second and third, respectively, at districts.
It’s often not how you start but how you finish. The Seahawks lost to the Tides 3-0 earlier in the season, tied them 1-1 later in the season and showed improvement by clamping the Tide offense at district.
The talented Hailey Shride scored both Peninsula goals on Wednesday.
Shride’s first score came off a nifty assist from Nora Sutherland in the third minute. Her second was in the 52nd minute off an assist from Addi Sebren.
The win put the Seahawks in the district title game against the second seeded Stadium Tigers on Thursday, Nov. 2, at Mount Tahoma. The Tides earned the district’s third seed to state.
Loss on penalty kicks in district title game
The Seahawks led the Tigers 2-1 at halftime thanks to beautiful goals from Sutherland and Sebren. They controlled the ball for much of the second half until disaster struck.
With under two minutes to go in the game, the Seahawks’ excellent goalie Brooklyn Finch made a fine save and kicked a ball out to a teammate. The high ball appeared to get hit by an untimely wind gust and died, allowing a streaking Tiger player to control it.
The Peninsula defense, caught off guard, rushed to defend but was called for a penalty. The resulting indirect kick from about 12 yards out pinballed off a couple players and to the foot of a Stadium player, who booted it into the net from five feet out to tie the game at 2.
Neither team scored during two five-minute overtime periods, setting up a shootout for the district title. Shootouts involve both teams getting five alternating penalty kicks from different players as an awaiting goalie hopes they guess right, dive and can stop a shot. They are often exhilarating for the winner and absolutely cold blooded for the loser.
Peninsula scored on four penalty kicks, but Stadium got all five to steal a game the Seahawks led for 88 of the 90 minutes of regulation play.
“Stadium is a good team and are very well coached,” Peninsula coach Kim Demianiw said.
Regional play of the state tournament begins next week.
Tides football hosts Marysville-Pilchuck
The Gig Harbor football team (7-2, 6-1) finished second in the South Sound Conference and host a playoff game against Marysville-Pilchuck (6-3) at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at Roy Anderson Field.
The Tides are coming off a tough loss to Yelm on Oct. 27. But everybody else lost to the Tornados the past couple years, too. They frankly look like a team that could beat a few NCAA Division lll college teams.
The Tides escaped without too many injuries against Yelm and are ready to go versus the Tomahawks, who started the season with four straight wins, lost three straight in the middle and won their final last two games convincingly.
The Tides possess a talented air attack and a stout defense and will be helped by their enthusiastic home crowd.
Peninsula’s football season ended in a Halloween night mini-playoff. Timberline won the South Sound Conference tie breaker involving the Seahawks and Capital and advanced to the 3A playoffs.
The Seahawks wave a sad good bye to many talented seniors who played their hearts out during their Seahawk careers. Among the key seniors graduating are Connor Burton, Landon Watson, Trace Schumacher, Cole Muilenburg, Levi Semler, Devin Foutch and Henry Ganisin.
The WIAA state cross country championships are Saturday, Nov. 4, at Sun Willows golf course in the Tri-Cities. Local district champions Elektra Higgins from Peninsula and Johnathon Miles of Gig Harbor, along with their teams, will look to bring back trophies for their respective teams.