LONGVIEW — Mossyrock and Centralia trekked south to Robert A. Long’s planned city at the crack of dawn on Saturday in order to test their skills in the 12-team Lumberjill Invite. A dozen whistle-and-celebratory scream filled hours later it was the Vikings who were leaving the Lumberdome and headed back to Lewis County with a runner-up finish to their credit.
After splitting a pool-play match with La Salle earlier in the day (25-21, 22-25) the Vikings wound up in a rematch with the Lightning in the championship round. Mossyrock took the first set 26-24 and then jumped out to a promising lead in the second set before watching the Lighting storm back for a wins of 23-25, and 8-15 to take the title.
“We were playing a perimeter defense and the weak spots were in the corners and they saw that it worked so they took advantage of it,” said Mossyrock coach Alex Nelson. “And we were tired. That was a long day for us on top of a really huge week so I’m very proud of these girls.”
Nelson noted that her team went five sets with Toutle Lake earlier in the week before turning in three “taxing” sets against Kalama on Thursday to earn a crucial league sweep against the Chinooks.
The Vikings continued to put in their work over the weekend, starting off with wins against River Ridge (25-18, 25-12) and Montesano (25-19, 27-26), as well as their hard-earned split with La Salle in pool play.
“All day, we would dig huge holes for ourselves and get behind by quite a bit. But I think we showed lots of character when we would fight back. That’s what tournaments are about is learning how to fight back because you’re going to see lots of lulls and highs,” observed Nelson. “The learning that takes place in a tournament like this is what’s most important, more than the wins.”
Of course, the Vikings were also able to claim numerous victories on the day, including their dispatching of Foster in the quarterfinals of bracket play and a thrilling three-set win over Elma (25-22, 21-25, 15-13) in the semifinal round.
With the second place finish in hand, out of a field of larger schools that were up to 3A in classification size, Nelson was full of praise for her players.
“Andee (Nelson’s) hitting, she’s a go-to hitter there. Payton (Torrey) also hit very well and Faith (Mulligan) is a great defender in the back row. If you serve to her, she’s going to get it up on target so we can run a lot of options there,” said Coach Nelson. “Our middles both did a good job touching the ball. That’s all I want. Sometimes we get a block but I just want them touching the ball, slowing it down for our defense and making it easier for them.”
Nelson also continued to be impressed by the play of her new setter, Morgan Houghtelling. The Vikings’ coach gave Houghtelling credit for honing in the team’s focus on the court and having a knack for picking the correct target when setting up her assists.
“She doesn’t look like a setter with one year experience. She’s making very good decisions out there,” Nelson said. “I’m very proud of her for stepping into a very important role.”
Like Mossyrock, the Tigers spent most of their day playing at Monticello Middle School. However, the ping-pong ball confines of that gym and its two courts, were not nearly as kind to Centralia as they fell to Wahkiakum (11-25, 19-25), Hudson’s Bay (21-25, 14-25), and Elma (21-25, 14-25) during pool play. The unfriendly bounces continued for the Tigers in bracket play as they lost a close shave match to Foster by scores of 25-27 and 23-25.
“What we were able to get out of it is we were able to do some different rotations so that way if we have to change anything up in the middle of a regular season match then we wouldn't be caught off guard,” explained Centralia coach Marti Smith. “We know what people’s roles are expected to be. That a good thing to be able to do in a tournament like this.”
Madison Stoeckler notched seven aces on 28-of-31 serving for the Tigers in the tournament while Kennedy Strophy was perfect on 26 serves with 12 kills to her name. Evie Rooklidge added 19 digs and a 21-for-22 serving effort and Madelinn Corwin tallied 13 kills. Kylie Sharp and Ella Orr added 22 and 21 digs, respectively.
Smith added an extra round of praise for seniors Sharp, Strophy, and Lillian Johnson.
“They brought really great energy today and were just really good examples for everyone else. They let these younger girls see that you’ve got to bring that energy every day,” said Smith.
Mossyrock (4-1, 2-0 league) will host Wahkiakum on Tuesday in a Central 2B League match. Centralia (2-4, 1-1 league) will host Rochester on Tuesday as they get back into 2A Evergreen Conference play.