In what could be considered an instant-classic volleyball matchup on Thursday at Hoquiam Square Garden, the Hoquiam Grizzlies — needing to win in four games to secure a league championship against rival Montesano — had it all a mere point away before Monte rallied for a 20-25, 25-16, 21-25, 26-24, 15-11 victory, clinching the league title in the process.
Montesano pulled of an incredible rally, roaring back from down by 12 points and staving off match point twice to win the fourth set 26-24 en route to the 3-2 victory and league championship.
“It wasn’t magic. They just realized how they needed to play and they started playing the way they can,” said Montesano head coach Pat Pace after his team rallied back from down 19-8 and held off two Hoquiam match points to earn a 26-24 victory in a critical fourth set.
Entering the match, Hoquiam (10-3 overall, 8-0 1A Evergreen) trailed Montesano (12-4, 8-0) by one game and had a couple of different scenarios in which the Grizzlies could win the league title outright. Based on Monte’s 3-2 victory over Hoquiam earlier in the season, if the Grizzlies won in four games or less, the league title and No. 1 playoff seed was their’s outright.
If the game were to go to a decisive fifth set, Hoquiam would have to win and allow Monte no more than 11 points based on a tiebreaker scenario (Monte won the fifth set 15-11 on Oct. 12).
With the league title on the line, the atmosphere at Hoquiam Square Garden felt more like a state playoff game than a regular season finale.
That energy and intensity was heightened as Hoquiam took control of the first set with aggressive net play and a scrappy, hustling backcourt that dug out anything Monte threw at it.
Monte, which trailed by as much as five points twice in the first set, managed to climb back to within a point at 20-19 on a McKynnlie Dalan block.
But Hoquiam was able to weather the storm and closed out the set when junior Ella Folkers set up outside hitter Kamryn Krohn for a kill to give Hoquiam a 25-20 win.
After falling behind 5-1 early in Game 2, Monte responded to go up 8-7 then took a 13-7 lead behind a strong service game and a block by senior Olivia Young.
The Bulldogs led by as much as eight points in the set before finally closing it out at 25-16 on a Hoquiam net touch.
Hoquiam regained momentum in the third set, taking an 8-1 lead after sophomore Kristina Goulet’s kill was deflected out of bounds.
Later, the Grizzlies took the set 25-15 when Montesano junior Ashlyn Devereaux sent a jump-serve into the net, putting the Grizzlies just one set win away from a league title.
Hoquiam carried a wave of momentum into the all-important fourth set and caught Monte flat-footed.
The Grizzlies leapt out to an 8-1 lead thanks in large part to kills by Goulet and Faith Prosch, while Monte mistakes piled up more points for Hoquiam.
Monte trailed by double-digit leads of 11-2, 16-6 and as much as 19-7 in the set. The Bulldogs were all but done as Hoquiam needed just six points to earn the league title.
“I think we came out (in Game 4) and we were on our heels for sure. We were looking for other people to pass the ball and we were hesitant,” Dalan said. “(Coach Pace) called a timeout and something just clicked. We had a couple of good plays and the momentum shifted and we just ran with it.”
Monte chipped away, cutting the lead down to 20-12 on a Maia Young kill; then to 21-14 on another Young kill; then 21-18 on Young’s third kill during senior Landree Dohrmann’s 7-0 service streak.
A Devereaux kill ended a long volley and pulled Monte to within a point at 23-22.
Jessie Dayton followed with a drop shot that fell between a trio of Monte players, putting Hoquiam at match point.
After a Monte timeout, a Devereaux kill followed by an Olivia Young ace tied the game at 24-24.
Monte completed the improbable set comeback when a Hoquiam pass sailed too close to the net for a Bulldogs point, followed by a Krohn kill attempt going into the net for a 26-24 Montesano victory.
“We started playing hesitant once they started chipping away. We started playing not to lose,” Hoquiam head coach Heather Bozich said. “We got a little ahead of ourselves.”
Hoquiam still had a shot at a league title if they could win the fifth set by a score better than 15-11, and the game started off in the right direction for the Grizzlies.
Hoquiam took a 6-3 lead in the set on a Dayton kill, but Montesano regained the lead at 7-6 and — after a drop shot from Prosch fell in — the set was all knotted up at 10-10.
The Bulldogs outscored the Grizzlies 5-1 over the last six points, winning the match — and the league title — when Olivia Young blistered home another ace to give Monte the 15-11 set win and 3-2 match victory.
“When we were down 17-7 in that fourth set, it just shows their grit. Clawing back and knowing everything was on the line,” Pace said of his team’s mental toughness. “That’s the first true league title for these girls. They won league last year in a modified season. So I think they felt a little pressure. … (Hoquiam) just came out and played hard.”
“That’s the best we’ve played,” Bozich said of her team’s performance. “They came out ready. We had a good game plan against them. We knew where they were going to hit and we got there. That was our main goal was to make sure defensively we knew where we were going and we did it. … There’s nothing we really did wrong, (Montesano) just did everything right.”
Monte was led by Dohrmann’s 24 digs, Devereaux’s 11 kills and seven solo blocks from Dalan — three in the fifth set.
“Coach Pace told me on Tuesday, ‘You’re one job is to block.’ So I took that to heart,” said Dalan, who is normally the team’s setter. “I had to really mentally check in and figure out all the little twinges I needed to make.”
Dalan added the key to the victory was the Bulldogs ability to rely on each other as teammates.
“We’ve had games like this where we’ve had to come back and I just think we realized we needed to lean on each other and not rely on one or two people,” she said. “We needed to come together as a group because we play best as a team. I think that’s what it was.”
Hoquiam was led by Folkers’ 35 assists, Graci Bonney-Spradlin’s 36 digs, and Goulet’s 13 kills and six solo blocks.
Bozich said closing out games is something her young yet talented team is going to have to learn to take the next step.
“Volleyball is such a game of momentum and we had it for a majority of the match I’d say. … You have to know how to win. You have to know how to close out a game and Monte has that. We’re still learning. We’re getting there,” she said before revealing what she told her crestfallen team in the locker room after the game. “We are not done. … This is just the start of our journey.”
La Center 3, Elma 0
Elma lost to La Center 25-9, 25-9 and 25-19 in a Senior Night game on Thursday in Elma.
Emma Peters had three blocks and Aalihya Ostrom had six kills and eight digs for the Eagles (6-9, 5-4 1A Evergreen).
“It was a slow start for us but I am proud of how they came back in the third set,” Elma head coach Kendra Dunn said. “It was great to have Emma Peters back from an injury. She played great at the net.”
Elma faces La Center in the district tournament at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Montesano.
Tumwater 3, Aberdeen 0
Aberdeen lost in straight sets to Tumwater 25-14, 25-23 and 25-11 on Thursday in Aberdeen.
Cameryn Micheau led Aberdeen (2-13, 0-11 1A Evergreen) with 11 digs with Savannah Strickland and Michelle Juaregui recording three kills apiece for the Bobcats.
“I am extremely proud of the girls’ effort and heart tonight,” Aberdeen head coach Desiree Glanz said. “We had some exciting rallies due to spectacular defense tonight. We got to our lines and spots and read the hitters. Serving and passing were almost perfect.”
Aberdeen’s C-squad, led by strong service play from Kadence Braaten and Kirsi Scott, won on Thursday.
Ocosta 3, Chief Leschi 2
Annika Hollingsworth had 11 kills and Brynn Rasmus recorded 26 assists in Ocosta’s 3-2 victory over Chief Leschi on Thursday in Westport.
Ocosta (6-5, 6-4 2B Pacific) locked up the league’s third seed with the victory.
“We came out quite sluggish in the first set tonight. This being our fourth game in as many nights, the team had to conjure up some energy,” Wildcats head coach Erin Snider said. “There were a lot of highs and lows, but in the end the team got it done.”
Alexia Bradley (10 kills), Noel Cuzdey (16 digs, 13 straight points served in fourth set) and Jolissa Schlegel (4 kills), were all noted by Snider for their play on Thursday.
The Wildcats are scheduled to face Napavine in the district tournament beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Adna High School.
Forks 3, South Bend 0
South Bend lost 25-22, 25-22 and 25-17 to Forks on Thursday at Forks High School.
South Bend (6-8, 6-6 2B Pacific) had a season-high 12 service errors in the loss.
“Serving errors hurts us tonight,” South Bend head coach Kelsey Staats said.
South Bend will open the district playoffs against Wahkiakum at 10 a.m. Saturday in Kalama.