Raymond played one its most complete games to close out a perfect regular season with a straight set victory over South Bend on Tuesday at Raymond High School.
The Seagulls (13-1 2B Pacific League) won on Senior Night by scores of 25-13, 25-7 and 25-16, hammering the ball at the net and from the service line against South Bend (6-7, 6-5).
The high-end sports car that is Raymond took some time to get revving as the Seagulls and South Bend played evenly for the first 10 points of the match.
But once Raymond’s offense gets going, it is hard to stop. The Seagulls found their rhythm and controlled the latter half of the set for the 25-13 victory.
“We’re kind of a slow-starting team at times,” Raymond head coach Bob Swogger said of his team, which is ranked third in the latest WIAA RPI 2B class rankings. “I think South Bend came out really ready to go and then we got in their head a little bit.”
The pressure of containing Raymond’s offense continued to cause South Bend struggles in the second frame.
Raymond took an early 6-1 lead that extended to 15-5 on one of freshman outside hitter Karsyn Freeman’s six kills in the match.
The Seagulls ended the set on a seven-point streak and took advantage of several South Bend miscues, including a ball sent out of bounds to close out the second set 25-7.
But South Bend didn’t fold, coming out with a renewed energy led by the net presence of senior middle hitter Reece Williams.
South Bend led 10-5 in the set behind multiple blocks and deflections by Williams to stem the tide of Raymond’s offense.
“We have really been working on coming back,” South Bend head coach Kelsey Staats said of her team’s response after a lackluster performance in the second set. “We have kind of struggled with finishing plays, finishing sets and finishing games. So we’ve really been practicing on our mental toughness and just trying to battle back.”
Raymond trailed by a point at 11-10 and the two teams would exchange several leads over the next few points.
With the third set tied at 16-all, one of Raymond standout service players — senior Grace Busenius — stepped to the service line and began hammering jump-serves into the South Bend side, causing difficulties for South Bend’s serve reception and forcing many free-ball opportunities back to the dangerous Raymond offense.
That was all the Seagulls needed as Raymond senior setter and reigning league MVP Sidney Swogger fed hitters Gardner and Freeman, who feasted by drilling kill attempts into the South Bend half.
“(Busenius) usually starts really long service streaks,” Sidney Swogger said of her fellow senior teammate, who was a perfect 15-of-15 from the back line. “Her being able to have that ability gets us going, gets our energy higher and just wanting to win.”
Raymond closed out the 25-16 set victory when Gardner blistered home a kill followed by slamming home a wayward South Bend pass for the final two points of the match.
“Kyra probably had her best game of the season so far,” Coach Swogger said of his senior outside hitter, who had a game-high 17 kills and six aces to go along with 10 digs. “She plays well all the time, but she was swinging really well.”
Freeman, whom Coach Swogger also noted had one of her better games of the season, filled up the stat sheet with 14 digs, six kills, four aces and 13-of-14 from the service line.
Raymond’s defense was led by sophomore libero Kyndal Koski, who had a game-best 18 digs.
Sidney Swogger had 13 assists, 12 digs and six kills as the floor general in the impressive Seagulls performance.
South Bend was led by Williams, who had five kills and blocked or disrupted five Raymond attacks on the evening.
South Bend senior outside hitter Hannah Jewell had eight digs with junior hitter Radynn Morley adding seven digs.
“I saw a lot of things tonight that I don’t know if this team was capable of early on in the season. So we’ve definitely come a long way,” said Staats, who cited the hustle of freshman setter Berklee Morley on Wednesday. “I saw a lot of great things tonight and the girls played really, really well.”
South Bend’s position as the No. 3 league seed got a little more comfortable with Ocosta’s 3-2 victory over Northwest Christian on Wednesday.
South Bend sits a full game up on NWC and Ocosta for third place in league.
Raymond has known it will be the league’s top seed for weeks now and will likely host Winlock in the 2B District 4 Tournament beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.
The question now is what heights can this talented Seagulls team reach?
“We just need to come in and be prepared,” Sidney Swogger said when asked what Raymond needs to do to stay mentally sharp for the playoffs. “We need to come up with energy, go all out and have a good mindset the whole time.”