Wildcats clinch division championship

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The Valley Cup rivalry between the Mount Si Wildcats and the Cedarcrest Red Wolves in girls' volleyball has become one of the hottest match-ups in the Kingco 3A Conference the last couple of seasons thanks to close matches between the two teams. Last Tuesday night's match at Cedarcrest High School in Duvall was no exception, as the Wildcats overcame a strong Cedarcrest effort and a couple of questionable officiating calls to outlast the Red Wolves in four games. The scores for the four games were 25-23, 25-20, 22-25, and 25-20, as the Wildcats spoiled Cedarcrest's senior night by winning the Valley Cup and taking home the Valley Division championship in the process.

Game one was close throughout, but Mount Si held the lead the entire way. Led by the strong play of seniors Jaclyn Boals and Maggie Olson, the Wildcats opened up an early advantage on Cedarcrest, but the Red Wolves remained close.

That changed midway through, when Boals' strong serving helped Mount Si build a 17-10 lead. Trailing 20-14, Cedarcrest junior Diane McKenney quickly responded by piloting a 7-0 run that saw the Red Wolves take the lead 21-20. Junior Maggie Kujath stopped Cedarcrest's run with a kill and allowed the Wildcats to serve again with a 21-21 tie. The game remained tight the rest of the way, and with the game tied at 23-23, a Boals kill set up game point for Mount Si, and a block up front by Amy Keogh sealed game one for the Wildcats.

The second game was just as close. Cedarcrest held the lead early but the strong play of Boals and Hill helped keep the Wildcats close. A couple of quick kills by Boals allowed the Wildcats to take an 8-7 lead, which they then held for the rest of the way. Boals, Hill and Olson all contributed scoring kills in the late stages, and Mount Si bagged game two. The toughest test, though, was still upon the Wildcats. In the previous meeting between the two teams it was Cedarcrest who took the first two games only to lose the match, so for Mount Si the task was to not repeat that themselves.

It seemed as if the Wildcats had gotten the message to start game three, as Hill, Boals and Keogh all played well and helped Mount Si to an early lead. However, as good as Boals had been throughout, she hit a rough spot midway through the game, committing three straight errors to allow Cedarcrest to take the lead 11-10.

It continued to get worse for the Wildcats, even after coach Bonnie Foote called timeout to calm the troops. Things quickly turned around, though, and Mount Si retook the lead with the help of strong serving from junior Monia Cavazzoli. The Wildcats built the lead to 16-13, then the Red Wolves stormed back behind the strong play of juniors Betsy Westermann and Karly Regalia, and senior Stephanie Hern. The Red Wolves closed it out with a kill, and Cedarcrest had survived to play another game.

The lessons of the heartbreaking losses to Skyline and Mercer Island showed up in game four.

"Without a doubt. I mean, in the beginning of the season, we would've figured out a way to lose out or go to five, you know. We are learning how to push through adversity, and I don't see the fear in their eyes anymore like I saw in the beginning of our season. You know, these guys are going out there with a little bit of bounce in their step, and they're expecting to win now, whereas before, I don't know if that was the case," said Foote.

The game opened as the previous three had, close. With the Wildcats up 11-8, that changed. After Cedarcrest was charged with a net violation, Mount Si took over serve, and Kayla Jayne put on one of the most clutch serving efforts Mount Si has had all year, piloting the Wildcats on a 7-0 run which allowed Mount Si to feel a little bit more comfortable about things.

With the Wildcats up 23-15, an Olson ace set up match point. The Red Wolves did not quit, though, getting back the serve, then mounting a furious comeback with the full knowledge that one mistake would cost them the match and any chance of the division title. That mistake came on the sixth match point, and the Wildcats had escaped.

"We've definitely learned how to finish games. We'll get down and then go on a run, but we've learned how to come out of them and finish the game," said Keogh.

Jayne praised the team.

"[They] needed to step up and [do] the things that they needed to do for us to win and everybody did their job well today and it was exciting," said Jayne. "I think people need to be watching out for us because we're going to be doing great."

Hern was honored prior to the game by the Red Wolves. As their lone graduating senior, she was showered with roses and given a blanket in appreciation of her four years in the Cedarcrest program. The match was also dubbed "Her Night" in her honor.

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