In a tightly contested game, the Bellevue Wolverines won the 3A KingCo tournament championship with a 3-2 (26-24, 27-25, 23-25, 24-26, 15-13) victory over the Interlake Saints on Nov. 7.
The Wolverines won both the league title and the tournament title this season. Both teams will compete at the 3A Sea-King district tournament for a chance at making it to the state tournament. The Saints will play a loser-out game against the No. 9 seed out of the Metro League on Nov. 14 at Lakeside High School. The Wolverines will face the winner of a match between two Metro schools on Nov. 14 at Sammamish High School.
In a rematch of last year’s tournament final, the two teams played a close first set. The Saints took a 24-21 lead, but the Wolverines scored the next five points, including an ace from junior setter Mia Vong, to win the set 26-24.
The Saints had a chance to win the second set, leading 25-24, but the Wolverines came out with the 27-25 win to take a 2-0 lead in the match. In the third and fourth sets, the Saints were able to tie the match at two. Interlake senior middle blocker Haley Killeen had multiple key blocks to help the Saints force a fifth set.
In the fifth set, the Wolverines built a 13-8 lead and were able to hold on for a 15-13 win to secure the tournament championship.
Head coach Jamie Tingelstad said the wins against Interlake and their 3-0 win over Mercer Island in the first match were symbolic of the Wolverines working through their mental game all season.
“We’ve always had really great talent on our team, it’s just us believing that and being able to perform when things aren’t going our way,” Tingelstad said. “This season, after each one of our losses, I reminded our girls that the teams that go far aren’t the teams that don’t ever lose, they’re the teams that come up against adversity and are able to fight through it.”
Bellevue outside hitter Julia Bray said the team played frantic at times during the middle sets.
“There was a point when we got tired,” Bray said. “Something that we always say is, ‘If you’re tired, fake it.’ Because, if you can fake it, it will look scary to the other team. Even if we’re exhausted, if we can fake it, we can ride it out until the end.”
Last season, the Wolverines lost both of their district matches, a 3-1 loss to Bishop Blanchet and a 3-1 loss to Seattle Prep. Tingelstad said the Wolverines have been talking about getting back to districts since the second week of the season.
“We’ve been talking all season about the hard work we’re going to need to put in a so we could make it to this point and be competitive in districts,” Tingelstad said. Even after winning both the KingCo regular season and tournament championships, Bray said the Wolverines are only just now hitting their stride.
“We’ve had a good season on paper, obviously we’ve done pretty well, but I feel like we’re just now starting to feel our rhythm and starting to play to our full potential,” Bray said. “I think districts is going to be a challenge. Once you get to see the Metro teams, they’re pretty competitive, but I think if we can keep up this momentum, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.”
Even with a spot in the district tournament already secured before the game, the match against Bellevue meant a lot to the Saints. Despite losing to Bellevue in five sets for the second time in the last two years, Interlake head coach Eddie Guerrero was proud of his team.
“We know the way we can play and that we can compete against that team,” Guerrero said. “I’m proud of the team, this is the second year in a row that we’re here. When you go to five, it can go either way. It’s tough, it hurts, but we’re going to be ready for districts next week.”
The Saints had opportunities to win the first two sets, but they were unable to put the Wolverines away. Despite the tough loss, Guerrero said they need to focus on districts.
“At the end, we talked about how the girls did a good job and they should be proud and they have to move on and not get stuck on this because that’s not going to help in the next game at districts,” he said.