Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Garth Meyer
Gazette Reporter 

Four-year state 1B volleyball streak snapped

Pomeroy nips Oakesdale for state title

 

November 21, 2019

Oakesdale point? Maybe, maybe not in a tight championship match with a series of diving saves and long, careful rallies. Pomeroy and its six senior starters won by an overall score of 108 – 106.

Pomeroy beat Oakesdale for the WIAA 1B state championship in Yakima Nov. 15 by a score of 16-14 in the fifth.

The best-of-five championship match between the two teams in the same league started with Pomeroy up 2-0 before Oakesdale escaped a sweep in the third game.

The four-time defending state champions took the fourth with little problem and it went to a fifth.

It was the fourth time the Southeast 1B league rivals played this fall; the first a home Pomeroy sweep of Oakesdale, the second a home Oakesdale sweep of Pomeroy. The third – the district final at Pomeroy – Oakesdale won in four.

In state championship matches, the Nighthawks beat Pomeroy in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

For 2019, in the brackets at the Yakima SunDome, Oakesdale swept Providence Classical Christian Mount Vernon Christian and Odessa to advance to their fifth consecutive final.

Pomeroy beat Naselle and Wilson Creek both 3-0 before a fight in the semifinals against Almira/Coulee/Hartline, just like last year.

The Warriors dropped in an ace to take the fourth game 25-14.

Pomeroy survived 15-11 in the fifth.

2-0 lead

In game one of the state final, played on center court Friday afternoon, it was 7-7, 9-9, 12-12 before Pomeroy took the first substantial lead, 15-12, then 18-13 with a slam off Oakesdale senior libero Lizzy Perry's fist in the back row.

Pomeroy continued.

"Let's go Blue. Focus," called out an Oakesdale fan.

At 23-17, Oakesdale sophomore Bree Rawls hit a cross-net, cross-court drop shot for 24-18. The Nighthawks cut it to 24-21 before time out Pomeroy.

The Pirates returned to the floor and took the game at 25-21 with a shot off Oakesdale freshman Jessie Reed's fist in the back row.

Game two was tight again, 4-4, 8-8 – a Heidi Heytvelt tip shot for Pomeroy, an Oakesdale slap-back of a Maddy Dixon spike, a drop shot from the Pirates' Jaden Steele, an angled kill from Oakesdale freshman Gianna Anderson.

At 13-9, Pomeroy's Steele – or was it her twin sister Teagan? – dove across the middle of the floor, saving a ball in front of the Pomeroy net.

Another timeout, a drop shot from Oakesdale eighth-grader Payton Davis, then a Lizzy Perry pinball spike off two Pomeroy sets of hands. Oakesdale smothered another Maddy Dixon spike-and-head-turn to cut it to 15-13.

Would Pomeroy really take the first two games in the state final off Oakesdale – after begging the question in the last month whether their Oct. 3 sweep was a fluke? Did the Pirates have a legitimate shot at taking the state championship, or was this them up 18 points on the Colton girls in basketball at Spokane Arena in March?

Different sport, some different players, a year later.

Dixon, a six-foot Pomeroy senior, got a block for 16-14. Oakesdale's Anderson hit a deep corner slam to keep her team within two at 18-16.

On the next point, the ball bounced back and forth until an Oakesdale player rose up and hit a spike.

"Out!" yelled the Pomeroy girls, watching the ball go long.

Oakesdale chased.

Lizzy Perry hit the back Pomeroy line for an ace, 21-19.

Pomeroy's Heytvelt dove flat on her stomach for a one-handed save, bumping the ball straight up, high in the air, above a circle of five Pomeroy players.

No one went for it, the ball dropped back to the floor on the miscommunication: 21-20.

Then, a Pomeroy block, an Oakesdale spike, out, Pomeroy senior Jaden Steele with another off-the-floor save and 24-20 Pomeroy.

Game point. On the ensuing rally, Pomeroy touched the net.

Back to Oakesdale's serve – another game point for Pomeroy – a long, soft rally began.

It came to an Oakesdale slam – long.

Pomeroy was up 2-0 in the state final.

Game Three

First point and the Nighthawks slammed a ball, rolling it down the front of a Pomeroy shirt. Next point, and Pomeroy's Dixon answered with a precise drop spike to a corner, 1-1.

And so it went again, staying close.

Pomeroy tip shots and Lizzy Perry clapping and slapping hands of her Nighthawks teammates. 6-6, another Pomeroy drop to Oakesdale's left corner, 8-7.

A Pomeroy hard serve off Perry in the back row, 10-7.

Next, with Perry serving, Oakesdale tied it at 11-11. A Pomeroy tip and drop to left corner, 12-11. Pomeroy tip and drop again to the left corner, 13-11. Dixon with a spike, Anderson spike, Oakesdale denial of Dixon, Oakesdale Anderson spike from left corner, 16-16. Tied at 17, a Dixon block, then another from Pomeroy sophomore Keely Maves; Oakesdale down 19-17.

Timeout Oakesdale.

"Nighthawk power! Nighthawk power!" yelled the parents in the stands – few to no students on hand because of the new Thursday-Friday state volleyball 1B/2B tournament format instead of Friday-Saturday.

At school in Oakesdale, at that moment, teachers, staff and students watched a WIAA online broadcast of the final in a classroom, the cafeteria and a hallway.

They all saw Pomeroy was six points away from sweeping Oakesdale for the state championship.

In Yakima, play resumed and Pomeroy pinballed a spike off the Nighthawks for 20-17.

Oakesdale's Anderson bent down and tied her shoe.

She made a push shot-kill to Pomeroy's back corner, 20-19.

Tied at 20, a Pomeroy hit long, 20-21 Oakesdale, then 20-22 Oakesdale on a Pirates' mishit.

A Nighthawks block for 21-24.

22-24 on Oakesdale long.

A Pomeroy serve into the net and Oakesdale escaped.

Game Four

The thick air in the SunDome dissipated and Oakesdale began work, with new life.

A long, long, soft-touch, careful rally and the Nighthawks led 9-6. At 10-6, timeout Pomeroy.

Would psychology favor the favorites? Since Pomeroy couldn't finish off Oakesdale in a sweep, would it be as this – how many NBA Finals have hinged on if a team didn't finish it in Game 6, they weren't going to win it Game 7?

After the Pirates' timeout, with Pomeroy's Dixon on the bench – the standard when she rotated to the back row – Oakesdale held the lead, going up 16-13 before Dixon went back in.

She dropped in a spike at 17-14.

Another a long rally ensued and Pomeroy finished it with a lob to an Oakesdale deep corner: 18-20.

Oakesdale's Anderson slammed a ball twice in a row through Dixon's hands on the block, for 22-18.

The Nighthawks won it at 25-20.

Onto the fifth.

Game Five

Pomeroy led early, 7-4 Pirates.

"PHS! PHS!" chanted the Pomeroy parents.

Lizzy Perry called time to tie her shoe.

"Come on, make 'em play the game!" yelled a Pomeroy fan.

Suddenly the Pirates were up 11-4, then 12-4; three points from the championship.

Perry, her back – as for her teammates'– pressed against a wall, stepped up to serve.

Ace. 12-6, then 12-7, then 12-8, Perry serving, the senior – one of just two on the Nighthawks roster. Perry, who had won state all three other years in high school, playing key roles since she was a sophomore.

Bam, another hard Perry serve and the lead was down to three; 12-9.

A Jessie Reed kill cut it to two, 12-10.

Perry's next serve went long.

Pomeroy, at 13-10, two points from the title, served and Oakesdale's Reed, a freshman, slammed for 13-11.

The Nighthawks got the next point and then a line drive serve by Marilla Hockett, another Oakesdale freshman, tied it at 13-all.

Both teams were two points away from the championship.

Another Jessie Reed kill and Oakesdale had championship point, 13-14.

Pomeroy's Jaden Steele then hit a match-point saving push drop shot for 14-14.

The Pirates got the next point, 15-14.

Championship point for Pomeroy.

A Jessie Reed slam went just wide.

It was over.

Oakesdale's streak of four in a row was done. Pomeroy's drought in state title contests was done.

108-106

Across the five games of the match Pomeroy scored 108 points, Oakesdale 106.

"A heartbreaker for us, but they battled back," said Nighthawks coach McKinzie Turner. "It was a good, hard fought match. It was heartbreaker, to be honest, we didn't come there to get second, we went there to get first. We made a lot more mistakes than we usually do. We struggled mentally in that final, but we overcame a lot too. We didn't play our best volleyball that day, not to take anything away from Pomeroy."

When Turner coached Oakesdale to the state title in 2015, among her young team managers were Jessie Reed and Gianna Anderson.

Reed's last slam was slightly too far.

"That ball was so close to call, an inch more to the right," Turner said.

The game-three Pomeroy drop shots to the left corner led to a change for Oakesdale.

"Trying to double block Maddy Dixon," said Turner, of the strategy. "You have to give something up to do that, and that's what we gave up."

So they made an adjustment, pulling back on the double-block.

"I think Pomeroy kind of had an axe to grind since we beat them on their court for districts," Turner said.

PRESS ROOM

Pomeroy started six seniors. They lost starting setter Emma Severs, another senior, to an ACL injury during summer basketball.

Last year in the state volleyball semifinals, Maddy Dixon got hurt and went out halfway through against A/C/H. In basketball, Pomeroy has lost to Colton in the state final the past two years.

Was there something different about this time in Yakima?

"I could just see it in their eyes," said second-year Pomeroy coach Amy Smith. "They came to play Friday. They wanted it really badly."

She saw a different look in their eyes than last year?

"I did. This group. And the team chemistry," she said. "Off the court, the six seniors are really close friends."

Another factor she suggested was the Pirates' defense.

"We were picking up tips that we didn't earlier in the year," Smith said, referring to saving drop shots.

On the long rallies:

"I don't think either one of us wanted to make a mistake. And we know each other so well."

In the end, Smith noted the regular season played a role too.

"Our league, Oakesdale, St. John, Colton. Our top four could have placed at state," said Smith. "We all helped each other be successful."

"They make a really big impact on your life"

Comparisons were made for Oakesdale too.

"I think Pomeroy studied us and found our weaknesses and tightened up theirs that we exposed the first couple times (this fall)," said Oakesdale coach Turner. "That was the closest match I've ever coached in."

McKinzie Turner grew up in Pomeroy and coached at 2A West Valley in Spokane for the past three years before her husband became a dentist in Pomeroy and they moved to Lewiston last summer.

Oakesdale and its freshmen standouts took second place at state after a run of four consecutive state 1B titles for the Nighthawks.

After Brandy Brown left for the job at Colfax, Oakesdale athletic director Ken Lindgren called and asked if Turner knew anyone.

"They're great kids. They make a really big impact on your life," Turner said.

Early in the year, what about that first loss at Pomeroy?

"We we're just behind the 8-ball. So much learning, so much growing to do," Turner said.

What did she think of what she saw the first day of practice? How good could a team that young be?

"There was a ton of talent there, it was just to figure out the best combination," said Turner. "I knew the potential they had because of who they are as people."

Lizzy Perry moved from outside hitter to libero for her senior year.

"We fought hard until the very last point," Turner said. "I can't say how proud of them I am. They gave it all they had."

 
 

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