Sports

Spartans are 1-1 at SeaKing tourney

Prior to their opening game of the SeaKing District Tournament against Issaquah, the Bainbridge High School varsity volleyball team looked calm, cool and collected -- the relaxed air of confidence reflected by smiles all around that seemed to project “We’re just happy to be here.”

Between the second and third game against Seattle Prep, the team didn’t look quite so jovial.

There was a palpable tension on court two at Mercer Island High School as the Spartans faced a drop to the consolation bracket at the hands of two-time state volleyball champion and powerhouse Seattle Prep.

But head coach Julie Miller corralled her charges; the Spartans came back out refocused and, despite what appeared to be a losing battle with a more experienced team, smiling again.

They played a respectable final game against the senior Prep team, with never more than a three point margin until the end of the match.

“That’s the difference between a veteran team and a young team,” Miller said. “A lot of these girls, it’s the first time they’ve played a match of this importance.

“I think they kind of got sucked into the pressure thing.”

Issaquah

In their first match of the day, Bainbridge started off in fine form against the Braves with an authoritative cross-court kill from junior outside hitter Michelle Miller to open the scoring.

Ashley Bice placed precision serves for a five-point run to 7-4.

Issaquah relied heavily on Sarah Primrose for scoring, and the Braves rallied to an 11-11 tie after her kill pinballed off of three Spartans and out of bounds.

A Samantha Nelson-to-Bice-to-Tabitha Mabrey spike brought the ball back to Bainbridge for another Bice service ace, and Bice and Mabrey teamed up again for a short set and subsequent off-speed shot that dropped mid-court between a pair of stunned Braves front-liners.

A number of miscues by both teams ran the score to a Bainbridge 24-20 lead. Issaquah’s Amber Bronnum aced a serve, but Spartan Sabrina Tan notched the game point on a laser to the Braves’ backcourt.

The second game started off with a Spartan deficit, but Christen Toepel and Sarah Braun teamed up for an amazing block on Issaquah’s Primrose that brought a loud cheer from both the Bainbridge bench and the crowd, and tied the game at four.

Bice went back to work with another ace, but the Braves ran the score out to 9-7 before a spirited dig by Tan set up a leaping Miller on the left side. She crushed the ball at Issaquah libero Amanda Crank, and it ricocheted up into the gymnasium lighting for the Spartan point.

Braun aced her serve, and kills by Miller and Stuart brought the Spartans a two-point advantage.

Allison Thies smacked a set from Bice that spiraled off the top of the net and dropped for an 18-13 Bainbridge lead.

The Braves managed to squeak out three more points before the Spartans closed out the game 25-16 on another perfect serve from Bice.

Senior Ashley Anderson made her shots count in the third game against the Braves, with her 7-4 point kill spiraling off the head of Issaquah’s Vanessa Perry. Anderson guided another blast into the open court as a follow-up.

After a Braves time-out, the Miller-Bice combo set up Alexa Seidl to punch a ball at Issaquah’s diving libero for a score.

Bainbridge ran the tally up to 21-11 before another Braves break, and the Spartan huddle at mid-court was positively beaming when play began again.

Despite a late six-point rally, the Braves fell 25-17 to the number-five ranked Spartans, who advanced to play Metro’s top seed Seattle Prep in the next game of the night.

Seattle Prep

It seemed to start off well enough, with Tan acing her first serve of the game. A Prep carry and a setting error gave the Spartans a three point advantage before a pair of points from Katrina Perez and an ace on Christina Payne’s serve tied the game at five apiece.

Suddenly, the Spartans weren’t smiling anymore.

A scrambling Tan dug out a thunderous kill by Payne that sailed back over the net. The Braves’ return was soundly stopped by a Toepel-Stuart wall, and a decidedly more serious Bainbridge ran for a 10-7 lead.

But Prep advanced slowly and surely, and the score bounced back-and-forth to a 16-16 tie before the Panthers finally broke out and finished with a nine-point run.

Bainbridge opened the second game with a score on Braun’s tip-over, but Prep countered with six straight points. Miller came back from a time out with a strong kill, but four more Panther points went unanswered by Bainbridge.

The Spartans gained two more tallies from Miller, and collected three on unforced Prep errors, but Prep came back again -- scoring 14 times to Bainbridge’s mere four to end the game at 25-11.

After coach Miller’s pep talk, however, the Spartans took the floor for the third game looking a bit less hapless and helpless than before.

The contest tilted from side to side, with the mid-game score at 12-12. Prep’s Payne blasted a shot off of Miller for the lead, but Stuart’s tip on the next play dropped at Molly Grant’s feet to tie.

At 19-18, a Tan dig flew out of bounds to put the Panthers up by a pair. Kills by Che Oh and Lauren Nuyen gave Prep a 22-18 advantage, but Lindsey Thiry’s next serve sailed wide into the bleachers behind the court.

Miller’s tip on a low third hit by Prep dropped and advanced the Spartans to 22-20, but Oh’s soft touch-over and Toepel’s kill attempt out of bounds put Prep on the game-point doorstep.

Toepel and Miller combined for a block to stay in the game, but a final well-placed laser by Oh brought the cheering Panther bench to their feet, and left the Spartans glancing over at court one to see who they’d be playing in Saturday’s first round of consolation games.

“This is the first time we’ve seen this kind of quickness since we played Blanchet,” Miller said after the loss.

The Spartans continue consolation bracket play today at 12:30 p.m. at Bishop Blanchet High School against Nathan Hale. Bainbridge needs two straight wins to advance to the state tournament.

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