Late in the second set of the Centralia volleyball team’s Swamp Cup matchup Thursday, with the Tigers already up a set and dominating the second, Centralia took a free ball and ran a perfect offensive set to senior Lauren Wasson, who smashed a spike that went long. Immediately, the Tigers all appealed to the referees for a touch at the net, and after a brief discussion it was given.
The delayed celebration, for a point that made it 23-13, was a bit subdued. But as she turned back toward the bench and got in her spot for the next point, already up one set and about to be up a second, Wasson looked head coach Marti Smith in the eye and jabbed a finger back at herself. It was easy to read her lips as to what she said:
“I wanted that one. I wanted that one.”
After two five-set losses to their rivals last season, the Tigers took what was given and then got greedy Thursday, smoking the Bearcats 25-21, 25-15, 25-15 in a result that will be hard for anyone in Lewis County — or the 2A EvCo — to ignore.
“Over their four years, these seniors have constantly been underdogs,” Smith said. “Any time there’s a Centralia/Chehalis matchup, they’re the underdog. A lot of times, that’s the thing, trying to get over the mental hump like, ‘No, you are not down there, you are right up here, and you’ve got to play like you are right up here.’ They responded well.”
Wasson finished with eight kills, as did fellow senior Makayla Chavez. McKenna Smith dished out 17 assists and led the defense with 12 digs, while libero Gracie Schofield had 11 digs.
But perhaps the most important stat came from Chavez, who logged seven aces — four of which came in a row in the first set in a crucial run that turned a one-point game into a 22-16 lead.
“Yesterday in practice, we talked about how the first set was most likely going to be a tight one, because both teams are just feeling each other out, who’s going to give first,” Marti Smith said. “We got ourselves down a bit, but once again it was our serving that came through. We’re able to do so many good things when we’re serving the ball well.”
That run helped turn W.F. West’s best blow of the match, after the Bearcats (0-7, 0-4 2A EvCo) had scrapped their way out to an even start, keeping the ball in play and letting Centralia make mistakes. Once the Tigers (5-1, 3-1 2A EvCo) got that fixed, it was just about over; after a brief W.F. West run to get it closer, Centralia ended the first set on a 3-0 run and turned that into a 53-30 run to end the match.
“My group is really just figuring out mental toughness right now,” said first-year W.F. West coach Tiffany Alvarado. “There’s a lot of talent and a lot of untapped things, but we are just hitting errors.”
Starting in the front row, Chavez once again rotated back to the service line close to the end of the set in the second. This time she came up with the Tigers already up five; by the time she gave the ball back to the Bearcats, it was a 10-point set, and she’d logged another two aces.
“I love having her start in the front there to be that third server in the rotation, because you don’t know where you’ll be at in that set after the first two rotations,” Smith said. “Whether we’re up or we’re behind, I have full confidence that she’s going to at least get us a couple of points to either get us back in it or keep pushing us ahead.”
McKenna Smith and Selah Calkins both added four aces of their own, and Wasson and Hollynn Wakefield added two apiece.
Chloe Chloupek led W.F. West with six kills. Libero Aubrey Prigmore had 13 digs at the back.
The Bearcats will take on Black Hills on Tuesday, back in Chehalis.
Centralia, meanwhile, is now on a three-game winning streak with three league sweeps in a row. The Tigers will get next Tuesday as their bye in league play, and return to the court for their own matchup against Black Hills next Thursday.
“We are senior-heavy, and it’ll be unfortunate to lose that many seniors after this season,” Marti Smith said. “But they’re making this season pretty special so far, and I’m excited to see what we have coming up.”