Spikers start the season in style

Winning seems to be catching on at Bainbridge High School.

The undefeated Bainbridge High School varsity girls volleyball team has already trounced traditional Metro League heavyweight Seattle Prep twice this season, an early sign that this year’s Spartan team could be the best in recent memory.

After dispatching Lakeside in three straight games last Tuesday, Bainbridge cruised past  Eastside Catholic at home Thursday by scores of 25-14, 25-11 and 25-17.

The wins pushed the Spartans’ league match record to 4-0 without a single game loss. 

The Spartan’s next match, at Bishop Blanchet High School on Tuesday, will be their most difficult test and an indicator of how far this team could go this year.    

Coach Julie Miller admits the consecutive game streak is special at this point in the season, but declined to elaborate.   

“I don’t want to jinx anything, but yes, it’s kind of unusual,” Miller said. “I don’t really want to pay a lot of attention to it because we still have to prove ourselves against some stronger teams.” 

Although the wins over Seattle Prep were impressive, Miller points out the private school doesn’t have its usual powerhouse team this year. 

A perennial state champion, Prep is in a rebuilding phase, which affords Bainbridge an even greater opportunity to excel in league and district tournaments at the end of the season.

While she’s cautious, Miller is quick to say this team might have what it takes to reach the top. 

“The girls have really come together,” she said.  “Many of them played together on club teams (off-season). They know each other well and they enjoy each other’s company. I think this is the most versatile, most talented team I’ve had in nine years of coaching Bainbridge High School volleyball.” 

Senior setter Ashley Bice, a third-year varsity player, has emerged as a leader on the team, racking up an astonishing 87 assists over four games in September. 

“Ashley is stronger this year, she sees the court better,” Miller said. 

Another key player, junior Sabrina Tan, moved to the island last year and is performing well this season, taking Michelle Miller’s place as outside hitter. 

Tan and sophomore Hannah Stuart form a “killer” duo – against Lakeside, the two combined for 27 kills.  

Starters also include senior defender Sarah Braun, sophomore hitters Tabitha Mabrey and sophomore Marijke Smith, a newcomer who is already a promising contributor.

Of the seven starters, six played club volleyball with the Washington Volleyball Academy in the league’s off-season, which the coach credits for improving their skills. 

“Hannah and Tabitha’s team went to Nationals,” she said.  “It makes a huge difference, all those touches on the ball.” 

Rounding out the team are senior defensive specialists Samantha Nelson and Michelle Baggett, and junior setter Alexa Seidl. 

All the girls, Miller said, are strong players and each plays a key role in the team’s success. 

“I’d say we’re right up there with the best,” she said, noting that the team placed in the top 10 at the state tournament last year.  “We were just one or two players shy last year of being right at the top.”

All this optimism is a bit of a surprise, considering the Spartans are without their star outside hitter, Michelle Miller, who tore a knee ligament last spring during club play and is recovering from surgery. 

But as often happens, other players have stepped up their individual games to fill the void, and Michelle – the coach’s daughter – has adopted a positive attitude, contributing in practices and on the sidelines at matches. 

“We miss her court sense,” the coach said. “But Ashley’s moving the ball around to different hitters, and Hannah’s in the middle, doing a good job of getting kills and blocks. We have a good chance to get to State.”

The Spartans meet Bishop Blanchet again on Bainbridge’s home court the last game of the regular season, 6 p.m. Oct. 14, and the Metro League finals are scheduled for Oct. 21 at West Seattle High School.

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