When junior Madison Vigre transferred to Winlock this year from Mossyrock, she was leaving a Vikings’ program that had placed third at state in 2019 and had finished second each of the three seasons prior.
She remembered what it was like facing the Cardinals while playing for one of the top teams in the state. Easy win, she thought back then. Most teams thought the same. Could you blame them? The Cardinals hadn’t even qualified districts since 2005.
“I know the mentality of other teams; I was there,” Vigre said. “So I know they’re coming in with the same mentality I had. It’s like nope, watch out.
“I remember coming out first practice and wondering how it’s going to go, and being like, ‘Oh! What? This wasn’t what it was supposed to be like. They’re really good, actually.’”
Vigre was right. They were good. Very good. Winlock (5-8) snapped a five-game losing skid to start the season by reeling off three consecutive wins. The Cards earned the No. 8 seed at districts, qualifying for the district playoffs for the first time in 16 years. They then busted off back-to-back upsets; first toppling the Pacific 2B League’s top seed South Bend before downing the Central 2B League’s No. 4 seed Adna to advance to the semifinals.
In a normal year, the Cardinals would have qualified for the state tournament, which would have been their first state berth in since the 1992-93 season. The Cards were then matched up with No. 2 seed Toutle Lake, and that’s where the magic finally ran out.
Toutle Lake, one of the premier teams in the state, swept the Cardinals (25-8, 25-10, 25-20) to end Winlock’s Cinderella run Saturday at Adna High School.
Junior libero Maia Chaney led the Cardinals with 22 successful receptions and 22 digs, while junior Addison Hall had a team-high 11 kills and freshman Raegan Lester added nine kills.
As coach Chastity Pennington sees it, the run isn’t over. This season is a springboard to the future. When she took over the program three years ago, she noticed the lack of volleyball banners in the rafters of the gym. She wanted to change that and it began with rejuvenating a program that had gone stagnant.
“Coming in here today, all we wanted was to do our best,” Pennington said. “We just wanted the girls to do their absolute best and know they’ve overcome so much this season. I’m extremely proud of them. Everybody is extremely proud of them. Winlock finally has a banner in their gym for volleyball and it’s going to continue.”
The Cardinals are stagnant no more as the volleyball team became the heart and soul of the community the past seven weeks, with fans, parents, students and teachers following closely and cheering loudly the entire time. On Saturday, two days after the WIAA increased fan capacity at games, the gym during the semifinals still wasn’t full but it sure sounded like it, as the bleachers erupted with applause for every Winlock point.
“It’s just crazy,” Vigre said. “Every extra game we played we were just happy to be there. When we started winning, it was like, ‘Oh my god.’ I don’t think anyone was expecting it. Everyone is excited for us. It’s awesome.”
It’s been a long road for the Cardinals, along with every team, with the season pushed back multiple times and the chance of it getting outright canceled. Pennington is grateful her team was able to compete the entire seven weeks and create a foundation for the future; one that hopefully lasts for many years to come.
Playing in their final volleyball game for Winlock are seniors Karlie Jones and Kaitlynn Mitchell, who helped provide guidance for the underclassmen and led by example all year.
“If I could keep my seniors I would be in a happy, happy world,” Pennington said. “But they’re leaving a legacy. They’ve made history.”
Napavine knew it was going up against, getting matched up with an undefeated Kalama team in the district semifinals that hadn’t dropped a single set all season.
The Tigers took them to the brink in set one but ultimately couldn’t match the powerhouse Chinooks, falling 25-25, 25-11, 25-17, on Saturday at Adna High School.
Senior Rae Sisson, Skyla Ettner and Sydney Purvis each served 100 percent, with Sisson adding a team-hgh seven assists and Ettner collecting 16 digs. Haily Murray led the offensive attack with a team-high 16 kills, while freshman Keira O’Neill contributed two block kills and 12 total blocks, while Jordan Wilson tallied six assists and Vannie Fagerness had a team-high 20 digs with an impressive defensive effort from the back row.
It’s been a rewarding season for the Tigers, who finished third in the Central 2B League, the highest of any Lewis County team, earning the No. 3 seed into districts.
“We knew coming into the season it was going to be tough,” Napavine coach Monica Dailey said. “We talked about needing to do what we can to take advantage of this time we have. We weren’t guaranteed a season, and if we lost it, where did we want to be in the standings?”
In a normal year, the Tigers would have qualified for the state tournament with its top-four finish. But for now, they’ll have to settle for a district tourney finish and look back on a season that was unlike any other in history with the pandemic affecting all things in life.
“The girls were resilient, dedicated and every time we opened the gym, they were there,” Dailey said. “They genuinely cared about each other. It was a lot of fun. We’re going to miss the chemistry this team had. They’re great kids and kind to each other.”