Wildcat volleyball season ends in heartbreak

The last time the Mount Si Wildcats met the Seattle Prep Panthers in the Sea-King District girls' volleyball tournament back in 2003, the game was billed by the Valley Record as the biggest volleyball match Mount Si had played up to that point in coach Bonnie Foote's run with the Wildcats. Seattle Prep was the best in the state at the time and the game was for a trip to state. Mount Si held their own, but Prep proved to be too much in the end and the Wildcats did not make state that year.

Shift forward three years to the present and last Thursday's match with Seattle Prep took on a similar tone, albeit for different reasons. Prep finished fifth in the Metro League tournament and had just a 3-7 regular season mark within their division. For the Wildcats, it was all about staying alive and setting the foundation for what could be a great 2007.

This match started out slow for the Wildcats, but it turned into a classic. At the end of the day, just like in 2003, Prep proved to be too much as five straight points closed out the match, and the season for Mount Si, in a five-game barnburner. Scores were 25-19, 25-19, 18-25, 23-25 and 15-11 as the Panthers moved on.

"We gave it our all and it hurts that we didn't win, but we didn't roll over and die. I'm proud of it," said Wildcat sophomore outside hitter Miranda Pratt, expected to be one of the keys to success next season. Pratt had 16 kills and 13 digs to lead the Wildcats.

Seattle Prep controlled the first game, responding well to the several attempts by Mount Si to rally in the game. A kill on the first game point gave Prep the game. The Wildcats responded to the defeat by opening game two with the early lead before the Panthers themselves rallied to move in front. Seattle Prep, after ties at 11-11 and 13-13, took the lead at 14-13 on a hitting error by Mount Si, and maintained their advantage the rest of the way. A block at the net sealed a commanding 2-0 match lead for the Panthers.

Game three was different. The Wildcats came out and didn't give in. Mount Si held the lead for much of the third frame, and was able to take control late with a strong 6-0 run behind the excellent serving of Rachel Brun. A Brun block kept the Wildcats' season alive, forcing a fourth game. Once again, Mount Si went to work in game four and used another long string, this time a 9-0 run, to wrest control of the frame away from a game Seattle Prep squad. Several Panther hitting errors keyed that long Wildcat run. Prep tried to rally late, but a Mount Si kill forced the fifth and deciding game.

Game five started out tight, but Seattle Prep held the lead most of the way. They were up 10-6 and looking good to move on, but the Wildcats had one more rally left in them. Behind a couple of kills and a Sine Schirmer service ace, the ladies from the Valley stormed back to take an 11-10 lead. On the next point, Schirmer hit her serve out of bounds, setting up the final run by Prep. Two aces and a couple of Mount Si errors later, the Panthers had escaped with the match victory. One of those aces, off the top of the net, was the final blow for the Wildcats. Mount Si's season ended at 10-7, but the seeds had been planted for a strong 2007.

"It was a great year. It was an enjoyable year as a coach and we had great senior leadership and it was a lot of fun," said Foote. Outgoing senior floor leader Faith Hutcherson, with a message for her younger teammates, said fans have a lot to look forward to next year. "If they [the Wildcats] really stick with it and train in the offseason, they're going to be amazing. They're a force to be reckoned with next year," Hutcherson said.

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