Tuesday’s matchup of the top two teams in the the 1A Evergreen League did not disappoint.
After losing the first two games, the Montesano Bulldogs rallied to win three straight and defeat the Hoquiam Grizzlies 15-25, 20-25, 25-15, 25-14 and 15-11 on Tuesday at Bo Griffith Memorial Gymnasium in Montesano.
Playing with high energy and a playoff mentality, the Grizzlies (5-2 overall, 4-1 1A Evergreen) roared out the gate to win the first set. Tied at 12-all in the game, Hoquiam pulled away behind a sharp offense, led by the stellar passing of junior setter Ella Folkers, who consistently set up perfectly-placed kill opportunities for hitters Kamryn Krohn, Faith Prosch and Chloe Kennedy to open a 22-14 lead and win the set 25-15.
Hoquiam continued to look crisp on offense in the second set, opening up a 13-9 lead as its high-powered offense put Monte back off the net and forced a Bulldogs team that is normally clean on the court into making mistakes.
Then the game took a sudden and dramatic turn two plays later.
Leading 13-10, the Grizzlies were dealt a shock-wave as Kennedy went up for a kill attempt and fell to the floor upon landing, writhing in agony with a left knee injury.
The game was immediately stopped and the once loud and raucous Hoquiam sideline, and the entire gymnasium for that matter, fell silent as medical personnel attended to Kennedy for approximately 20 minutes.
An air-cast was placed on the standout middle blocker’s left leg and she was taken on a gurney by medical professionals to a local medical facility.
Kennedy is expected to have an MRI in Olympia Wednesday morning.
Players on both teams were shaken up, according to both coaches.
“(Kennedy’s injury) is tough on both sides because I have girls that are close friends with her and they were looking forward to the competition of playing Hoquiam with their full team,” Monte head coach Pat Pace said. “We don’t wish that on any player.”
“They were visibly upset and very shaken,” Hoquiam head coach Heather Bozich said of her team. “I just told them, ‘Hey, this is going to show us what we are made of right now. This is what athletes have to endure.’ Volleyball is all improvising. You have to do something different. You have to adapt.”
Adapt they did.
Hoquiam won three of the next four points once play resumed and held as much as a 22-16 lead in the second set.
The Grizzlies finished off the set when Kennedy’s replacement, junior middle blocker Jessie Dayton, smacked a kill on a wayward ball for a 25-20 set victory and 2-0 match lead.
“The communication and movement was so much better tonight,” Bozich said. “We were transitioning well and that was having our hitters ready to attack the ball in a quicker manner than we’ve been doing. It’s a rivalry game and we were ready to play.”
But Montesano (7-4, 4-0) was not about to go quietly. Pace made sure of that.
“He basically just told us we needed to stop playing as individuals and pick up the energy and to start talking more,” Montesano outside hitter Ashlyn Devereaux said of Pace’s pep talk after the second set.
In Game 3, Monte jumped out to a 7-0 lead behind the strong service of senior Olivia Young and began to take advantage of Kennedy’s absence in the middle. The Bulldogs opened up a 10-point lead at 17-7 as Hoquiam’s offense began to lose the consistency it had in the first two games.
The Bulldogs won the third set 25-15 and continued its momentum through the fourth set, taking a 7-2 lead early on thanks to a service-point streak from Devereaux, whose hard jump-serve gave Hoquiam fits during the match.
Hoquiam was able to trim Monte’s lead to 16-11, but got no closer as Monte won the set 25-14 to force a decisive fifth game.
With the fifth set tied at 2-2, a kill in the far corner by Maia Young followed by back-to-back aces from Devereaux gave the Bulldogs a 5-2 lead.
Hoquiam would pull to within three points twice more in the set at 8-5 and 12-9, but would eventually fall 15-11 when Monte’s McKynnlie Dalan would feed Abbie Winter for a well-placed drop shot that secure the Bulldogs victory.
“I think some of our girls could have been a little intimidated by the way Hoquiam came out,” Pace said. “The last three sets, our setters did a good job getting the ball a little tighter to the net for our hitters to have a couple options on what they wanted to do. I’ve gotta give hats off to Hoquiam. The way they played through the injury and moved on the court defensively, they are tough.”
“We just kind of got in our heads and stopped passing the ball real well,” Bozich said of Hoquiam’s breakdown in the final three sets. “That did not allow us to run our offense. … When we are not able to run our offense it takes (outside hitters Krohn and Prosch) out of the equation and we kept sending them free balls, and they took advantage of the free balls.”
Winter led Monte with 13 kills and seven solo blocks. Dalan had 18 assists, seven solo blocks and six kills for Monte with Devereaux adding 11 kills and six aces for the Bulldogs.
Hoquiam was led by Folkers, who had a game-high 43 assists. Krohn had 34 digs and 14 kills while Prosch led the Grizzlies with 18 kills.
Dayton had seven total blocks — five solo — filling in for the injured Kennedy.
The come-from-behind victory puts Monte a half-game up in the loss column over the Grizzlies for the top spot in the league.
The two teams are scheduled to meet again in what could be a winner-take-all contest for the league title on Oct. 28 at Hoquiam Square Garden.
“We know we can beat them, we just need to be playing our game and how we know we can play,” Devereaux said. “We just need to have our confidence at its highest and we can play good.”