The last two Interlake volleyball seasons ended with a first-round loss in the district tournament, but this year, the Saints were determined to change that.
After winning three of their four games at the district tournament, the Saints qualified for the 3A state tournament for the first time since they made it to the 2A state tournament in 2011.
“We always came up short in those two games at districts,” Interlake head coach Eddie Guerrero said. “Going into districts this year, we talked about that a lot.”
The Saints entered the district tournament after a tough 3-2 loss to Bellevue in the KingCo tournament championship game. This was the second straight year they lost to the Wolverines in five sets for the tournament championship. Despite their disappointment, Guerrero knew the season wasn’t over.
“It hurt,” Guerrero said. “But we had to shake it off and move on.”
In the first game at the district tournament, the Saints faced West Seattle, the team that ended their season last year. This time, the Saints came back after losing the first set to win 3-1 (11-25, 25-10, 25-20, 25-20) in a loser-out game on Nov. 14. After a 3-0 (25-20, 25-21, 25-21) loss to Seattle Prep later that night, the Saints went into the final two games of the tournament on Nov. 16 needing two wins.
The Saints won the first match 3-0 over Ballard to move onto a winner-to-state game against Bishop Blanchet. Interlake beat Bishop Blanchet 3-2 to earn their spot at state. Senior setter Katie Thomas said the difference this year for the Saints was trusting themselves and being able to bounce back after a loss.
“The last two years, I think we got there and we were intimidated by the Metro teams, so we didn’t trust ourselves and our abilities and we ended up losing,” Thomas said. “This year, we believed in ourselves. Even after the loss to Seattle Prep, we came back from that and fought hard.”
Due to a family emergency, Guerrero was unable to be at the district tournament, but he was following the team closely.
“When I was there, I was looking at the scores,” Guerrero said. “I’m going through a hard thing with my family down there, but then I was also happy and excited for these guys.”
As they head into the state playoffs beginning on Nov. 22, Guerrero said they can take what they’ve learned from their postseason experience into their upcoming games. The Saints had to win three loser-out games at the district tournament to keep their season alive.
“It should give us a lot of confidence,” Guerrero said. “Now that they’ve played in that kind of game, they are ready to fight for every single point and every single set.”
When Guerrero became the head coach of the volleyball program at Interlake, he wanted to build the Saints into one of the top teams in the state. Guerrero said making it to state is a step forward for the program.
“Whatever they did this year is going to affect next year and the future,” Guerrero said. “They’re helping to build that history here.”
Thomas said this will be a valuable experience for some of the younger players on the team.
“They get to experience it and come back next year, knowing how good it feels to be able to qualify for state and they’ll want it even more,” Thomas said. “I think we have some really good leaders on the team that will be back next year. I think they’ll have a great season and I’ll be back to watch them do it.”
The Saints are set to open up the state tournament with a game against Capital on Nov. 22 at the Yakima Valley SunDome.
Thomas said she is looking forward to being on such a big stage and to play against talented teams.
“I’m excited, not only to play, but also to be around other players and high-level volleyball,” Thomas said. “We’re going to be playing against good teams and it’s going to be so much fun. The games are better when you’re playing a good opponent.”