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Spartans beat Eastside Catholic: Bainbridge to play Seattle Prep for Metro League crown
Emma Burgess stepped off the court after the Bainbridge Island-Eastside Catholic matchup in the Metro League Volleyball Tournament.
With her face still red and sweat beading on her forehead, she fished her smartphone out of her bag and texted her mom.
The message was simple.
The Spartans conquered the Crusaders 3-1 in Bainbridge's first tournament test after sitting out a week thanks to the byes earned from their Mountain Division title, but the victory was anything but simple.
A scrappy Eastside Catholic team won the first game and held Bainbridge at the brink throughout the four-game matchup.
But the Spartans were never seriously rattled, and won three in a row to knock the Crusaders into the loser's bracket.
Bainbridge will now play Seattle Prep for the Metro crown later Saturday night.
"It's awesome," Burgess said afterward, adding that it's tough to beat the same team four times in a season.
And the Spartans did just that.
"It's feeling pretty good right now," Burgess said.
It wasn't as simple as that text message, though.
"They came out really strong and they came out with a lot of energy. And we were just not up there," she said.
The start of the first game itself was delayed a bit, as the lights went out in Denny Gym at Chief Sealth High just 15 minutes before the start time of the first game, sending tournament officials scurrying through the host high school looking for a janitor to get the lights back on.
A cheer rose from the crowd when the lights finally did.
Out of the darkness came the Spartans. And like the big gym lights, Bainbridge needed a little time to warm up.
Bainbridge started with a loss in a highly competitive first game that saw 10 ties and 10 lead changes.
The Crusaders led for much of the game after the fourth tie at 5-5, but Eastside Catholic's advantage was slight, just one or two points for much of the game.
The Spartans claimed their final lead after breaking a 21-21 tie to move to 22-21, but the Crusaders then reeled off four straight points to win the game.
In the second, Bainbridge led until Eastside Catholic tied the game at 8-all and the Crusaders challenged the Spartans in a another back-and-forth battle until Bainbridge jumped in front, 13-12.
The Spartans stayed in front until Eastside Catholic scored three consecutive points to knot the game at 21-21. A large contingent of Crusader fans filled the gym with a deafening roar, and after a Bainbridge timeout to quiet the crowd, Bainbridge again inched to a one-point lead.
It wouldn't last. Eastside Catholic evened the game again at 22-22, but the Spartans responded with three gutty points to even the series at one game each.
The winning shot came on a short volley with the Bainbridge return falling right into the far corner of the court amid back-away shouts of "Out!" from a crowd of Crusaders. It wasn't, however, and Bainbridge knotted the series.
Several Spartans gasped audible sighs of relief as they traded sides with the Crusaders and took their positions on the other side of the net, with one Spartan exclaiming "Finally!" after the win.
At the start of the third, the Crusaders wore the look of a demoralized team.
The glum expressions faded somewhat after Bainbridge fell behind early, but the Spartans quickly rallied to tie the game at 4-all.
After three more ties, the Crusaders broke it open and scored four points in a row for an 12-8 advantage.
Bainbridge chipped away at Eastside Catholic's lead, and tied the game at 15-15. Three more ties and as many lead changes would follow before the Spartans exploded for six unanswered points to win the game and forge a 2-1 advantage in the series.
The Spartans controlled the fourth game nearly throughout, taking a four-point lead early before the Crusaders came back to tie the game at 11-11, then 12-12, then 13-13.
It would be the last time the game would be so close.
Bainbridge built a six-point cushion at 21-15, though Eastside Catholic fought to the end and pulled to within two at 24-22 before the Spartans put them away.
"We didn't play every well, but we managed to win," said Bainbridge Coach Julie Miller. "Sometimes you just can't win pretty; you've got to win ugly."
Miller said the tournament byes, courtesy of the team's winning their division, may have taken a toll.
"We definitely were a little out of synch, I think, after that whole week off," she said.
After Eastside Catholic came out strong, the Spartans made some adjustments - and they worked.
"We decided to speed things up," Miller said. "We noticed that when we were moving faster, that they couldn't keep up with us."
"I think that helped us wake up a little bit, too," she said.
Emma Burgess contributed 27 digs for Bainbridge. Maggie Haskin added 26 digs and 38 assists, while Lauren Sheehan finished with 22 digs and 14 kills. Erin Kinney contributed five kills for the Spartans.
Bainbridge will play Seattle Prep for the Metro League championship at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Prep beat West Seattle 3-0 to move into the final. The Panthers won 25-19, 25-17, 25-21.
The winner of the Bainbridge-Seattle Prep contest will earn the No. 1 seed to the district tournament; the loser will automatically get the No. 2 seed.