Sports

Mount Si heads into league tournament

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The Mount Si Wildcas girls' volleyball team closed out their home season with a convincing win over the Sammamish Totems, but failed to clinch the division title against Issaquah High in a match that still has fans abuzz.

The Wildcat's began last week with a trouncing of the Totems in three sets (15-4, 15-0, and 15-10). But when it came time a few days later to clinch the division title, the Wildcats fell short against Issaquah, losing in five sets (5-15, 16-14, 15-3, 4-15, 17-15).

"It was good to get that win," said senior Alison Neuenschwander, as the Wildcats prepared for their big match against Issaquah.

Despite the third game being close, Mount Si coach Bonnie Foote said she wasn't concerned.

"We weren't scared, we were trying some new things and they just got a little bit of momentum on us," said Foote.

In the first game, Mount Si, backed by strong serving from sophomore Emilie Aaltonen and strong play up front from Maggie Olson, blew out to an 8-1 lead and never looked back. Sammamish tried to fight back, but could get no closer than 4-8 before the serving efforts of Neuenschwander and junior Jaclyn Boals propelled the Wildcats to victory. With Mount Si up 14-4 on game point, the Totems hit the ball out of bounds, giving Mount Si the first game.

Strong serving from Neuenschwander and juniors Kristina Turple and Chandra Rappin - among the three of them, they had a total of seven aces in the game - helped the Wildcats to the quick shutout of the Totems in game two. The Totems had possession of the ball only three times in the entire second game.

Mount Si and Sammamish battled early for the lead in game three, which Sammamish eventually took at 4-3 after Wildcat sophomore Kayla Jayne's error on return. Sammamish hopes were soon crushed when Aaltonen's strong serving and Boals' play at the net helped bring the Wildcats back to a 5-5 tie.

Sammamish junior Dawn Albert's serving efforts - she had two aces in her service sequence - lifted Sammamish back into the lead. With the Wildcats down 6-10 to the Totems, Rappin had three aces in five serves in her sequence, helping lift Mount Si back into a 10-10 tie. Olson and senior Randilinn Cason's strong play at the net propelled the Wildcats into a lead they would not relinquish. With the Wildcats up 14-10 on the second match point, Cason's serve landed untouched on the Sammamish side, and that was it.

In the second game of the week - one that will be remembered for some time - Issaquah won the Valley Division championship on their home court with a dramatic comeback over Mount Si. The Indians fought off three Wildcat match points in the fifth and deciding game, and pulled out a dramatic five-game victory. The match literally had everyone in the stands on the edge of their seats.

In a game like this little things stand out, such as the Wildcats' inability to convert game point in the second game leading to an Issaquah win. Then there was the fateful three match points in the fifth game before the Indians took the win. According to Foote, inexperience was at fault.

"Our inexperience showed a little bit tonight for the simple fact that you know [Issaquah's] got big seniors out there, and we've got little sophomores at different times," said the coach.

The team overcame that and played what will likely be remembered by many Mount Si fans in attendance as among the best volleyball matches played by a Wildcats squad. For that, Foote was very happy with her team.

"I'm proud of them. They played hard," said Foote.

The match opened up on the right foot for the Wildcats in game one, as Aaltonen's strong serving, backed up by four aces, and the strong play of Olson helped the Wildcats roll out to a 14-0 lead. Mount Si had come out and showed the Indians they were ready to play.

The Indians, led by Hilary Bates, tried to mount a comeback, but by then it was too late, as the Wildcats, on their fourth game point leading 14-5, picked up that point on a error by Issaquah, for the game one victory.

Game two was more of a battle, as Olson and Hill played strong at the net, and Aaltonen's serving - with two more aces - propelled Mount Si into a 6-3 lead. The Wildcats built that lead to 10-5, but the Indians, led by the strong serving of Sarah Primrose and a critical kill by Bates, eventually climbed back to tie the game at 11-11. Mount Si got the lead back to 14-11, then the Indians scored the final five points. Game point was an ace by Vanessa Perry. With a 16-14 victory in game two for Issaquah, one might have guessed the Indians had all the momentum.

If game three was any indication that guess might have been correct, as strong serving by Primrose and huge offensive efforts by Bates, Primrose and Bethany Carlsen allowed the Indians to jump out to a 14-2 lead en route to the game three victory. On the Indians' second game point, the Wildcats' Aaltonen hit a return into the net, and that gave Issaquah the game three victory, and a huge momentum boost heading into game four.

That boost existed for Issaquah to start game four, as the strong serving of Carlsen and Kristin Clute - each with two aces in their service sequences - allowed the Indians to build an early 4-1 lead. The Wildcats rallied back to tie the game at 4-4, then senior Alison Neuenschwander's serving lifted the Wildcats into the lead, which they never relinquished. Aaltonens serving finished off the Indians in this game, and Mount Si had sent the message to the Indians that there was no quit in the Wildcats.

That message did not faze the Indians in game five, as Perry's strong serving put Issaquah up 7-0. It seemed as if the Indians wanted to send an even stronger message to the upstarts from Mount Si that this was Issaquah territory.

The Wildcats remained focused and the serving of Aaltonen and junior Kristina Turple, along with strong front court play from Olson, allowed the determined Wildcats to fight back from being down 7-0 all the way to take an 8-7 lead. The Indians tied at 8-8, then the Wildcats took the lead back and built it to 13-8 and the Mount Si fans were smelling an upset and a rematch playoff game for the outright title this week.

The Indians didn't give up though, and thanks to the efforts of Carlsen, Bates, Primrose, Clute and Amber Bronnum, made it all the way back to 14-14. Before the Indians tied it though, the Wildcats had a match-point attempt, which failed when junior Chandra Rappin hit her serve out of bounds, giving the Indians possession. Mount Si regained possession and Issaquah's error at the net put the Wildcats into a 15-14 lead but Mount Si hit it out of bounds again on match point number two, giving Issaquah possession. The Wildcats quickly regained the ball back, for a third match point attempt, but, despite a huge dig by Cason, Primrose's kill forced Mount Si to give up possession. Issaquah re-tied it at 15-15 after the Wildcats' Hills kill attempt landed out of bounds, then Bates' kill gave the Indians the lead at 16-15, and on the Indians' first match point, Hill hit it out of bounds again, and Issaquah had escaped.

"We did our best. Chandra [Rappin] had an awesome game, and I think that we should have won. We played our hardest," said sophomore Emily White.

Mount Si will try to bounce back, and hopefully provide more thrilling action when they start up postseason play today in the Kingco Conference Tournament at Newport High School.

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