Sports Beat: Volleyball teams narrowly miss medal-round rematch
Both local volleyball teams’ seasons ended one match before they would have played each other for seventh place at the WIAA Class 3A state tournament at the Yakima Valley SunDome on Nov. 17 and 18.
It’s probably fair to say the teams finished tied for ninth at the state. They previously tied for second in the South Sound Conference standings, splitting a pair of thrilling games, and both finished with almost identical win-loss records.
Into the consolation bracket
Peninsula (15-10) was seeded 19th and opened state tourney play in the 8 a.m. “Egg McMuffin” game. Coach Katrina Cardinal’s team was ready to go and pulled off a victory over 14th-seeded Meadowdale, 25-20, 25-16, 25-20. Next up was the eventual state champion Mead Panthers from Spokane.
The third-seeded Panthers (21-2) had a talented roster that included five girls taller than 5-foot-10 and a 6-foot-3 middle blocker. The Seahawks weren’t intimidated and put up a valiant fight, sending the first game into extended play before falling 28-26, 25-21 and 25-22.
Put another way, Peninsula lost to the state champion by a combined nine points over three sets.
The Tides (15-9) were seeded ninth after their impressive second-place district finish. They opened against eighth-seeded Prairie, which featured six players over 5-foot-10. Gig Harbor fought hard but had trouble with the Falcons’ length at the net. Gig Harbor lost in straight sets to the Vancouver-area school, which went on to place fifth.
Both local teams returned to the court for loser-out contests. Both came up with victories to advance to the second day of the tournament.
The Tides showed confidence and steady nerves, coming through down the stretch in each game to defeat Bellevue 25-23, 25-22 and 25-21.
The Seahawks advanced by beating West Seattle in a five-set nail-biter.
Peninsula got out to an early two-game lead, winning 25-22 and 26-24. The Seahawks lost momentum and the next two sets 9-25 and 23-25. Faced with the finality of their high school careers coming to a close, the Seahawks rallied behind their four seniors to advance with a thrilling 15-12 fifth-set victory.
Out on Saturday
Each team dropped their Saturday matches one game before the trophy round and a possible rematch against each other.
The Tides faced fifth-seeded Seattle Prep (23-4) and its three 6-foot middle blockers. Gig Harbor won the first set 25-21, lost the second set 17-25 and then gave it all they had in a back-and-forth third set but lost 27-29. The emotionally draining third-set loss proved tough to overcome as the Tides lost the fourth set 17-25 to end their successful season.
Peninsula also lost by a 3-1 set score. Liberty of Issaquah (22-5) took the opening game 25-22, but the Seahawks fought back and flew all over the court to win the second set 25-20. From there, the Patriots used an impressive array of difficult serves to keep the Seahawks off balance. Liberty pulled away with identical 25-13 scores in the third and fourth sets to bring the Seahawks’ strong season to a close.
The Seahawks and Tides teams were drained of energy and understandably emotional but probably would have played a rubber match against each other in the parking lot of the SunDome if allowed to do so. Both teams are filled with ultra competitive girls and coaches that this area should be very proud of.
Both teams have promising underclassmen for next season but each team will wave goodbye to talented seniors who will be difficult to replace. The Tides graduate Natalie Piasecki, Lydia Ward, Liv Cichanski, Sophie Shafner and Elly Sullivan. The Seahawks graduate Mackenna Moloznik, Evalyn Sutherland, Avary Young and Katie Bodnar.
The local hardwood courts are alive with the sounds of dribbling balls, squeaking sneakers and blowing whistles as all four teams gear up for nonconference openers next week.
The Gig Harbor boys team, coached by Billy Landram, is coming off of back-to-back state tournament appearances. That two-year span includes a conference title, a second-place district finish last year and a 45-8 record.
The Lady Tides are fresh off of a state appearance, a third-place conference finish and a 14-10 overall record. They welcome in new head coach Tim Olson, who replaces the departed Mike Guinasso. The Tides have plenty of players who can score the basketball and are excited for the 2023-’24 season.
Across town, the Seahawks girls hoop team lost just one starter from a team that won the South Sound Conference title last year and finished 18-6 overall and 13-1 in league. They qualified for the Class 3A state tournament under energetic first-year head coach Hannah Lekson, the reigning SSC coach of the year.
The Seahawk boys basketball team will look for steady improvement under second-year coach Sean Muilenburg who led his team to sixth in the conference and an 8-11 overall record. Look for a more complete run-down of the four local hoop teams and an introduction of Gig Harbor’s new girls basketball coach next week.
Both local wrestling teams begin their seasons soon.
The Peninsula Seahawks look to continue their winning ways after a successful 2022-23 season, when they finished tied for second in the South Sound Conference with a 5-1 record. Several returning wrestlers advanced to state from last year’s teams and will be aiming for a return trip under head coach Garry Griffin.
Gig Harbor had an outstanding group of wrestlers in the lower weight divisions last year, but suffered several injuries and forfeits at the upper weights. The Tides finished fifth in the SSC at 2-2 and will look for more balance this year. Some very talented wrestlers with state experience return for head coach Blake Moser, who also is a successful mixed martial arts competitor.
Swimming and diving
The local boys swimming and diving seasons are about to begin and the Tides are on a short list of teams that could possibly bring home a Class 3A title for coach Mike Kelly. Gig Harbor won the South Sound Conference title and finished fifth at the Class 3A state meet last year.
The Tides return plenty of talented swimmers, including Aiden Hammer, who won the 200 and 500 freestyle state championships as a freshman. Also returning is senior Grant Huston, who was third in the 100 freestyle and fourth in the 200 freestyle at state. The speedy Scott brothers, Travis and Emmett, can lay down excellent times as well.
The Peninsula Seahawks are led by coach Athena Patterson, who doubles as the girls coach. Patterson replaced the retired Tim Messersmith, who left the Peninsula program in fine shape after a 6-1 SSC finish and a 20th place showing at state last year.
The Seahawks return talented juniors in Jonah Bergerson, Aidan Miller and Tyler Givot. Those three joined with departed senior Hunter Hobbs to make the state finals of the 200 medley relay race last year.
Givot, Bergerson and Miller also showed their endurance and compassion in August, when they participated in the Swim for Shelter event. They swam from Vashon Island to Gig Harbor to raise money for the New Phoebe House, a sober housing facility for women, while a few kayaking friends made sure of their safety and cheered them on.