North Kitsap victorious on Kingston's volleyball court

North Kitsap’s Claire Torstenbo dives for a dig during action against Kingston Tuesday. - Brad Camp/Staff photo
North Kitsap’s Claire Torstenbo dives for a dig during action against Kingston Tuesday.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff photo

KINGSTON —  After the Kingston volleyball team’s challenging first season this year’s opponents might have assumed the Bucs wouldn’t be much competition.

However, heading into the inner-district rivalry game Tuesday, Vikings head volleyball coach Tim French knew that wasn’t going to be the case. He was certain the Bucs would come out fighting.

“I know they’re very competitive and hard workers. They’ll compete and won’t quit,” French said. “I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy match-up.”

He was right.

Kingston played scrappy. Kingston played with spirit. Kingston played to win.

But when the last serve of set three was settled all three matches and the win belonged to the North Kitsap Vikings, 20-25, 25-19 and 25-13.

“Our intensity level was so much higher. Our competition level was way above what it used to be. Last year they came in thinking they’d get beat,” said Buccaneer head coach Lacey Menne. “I was happy with how we played. We’ve improved numerous amounts over last year and it’s amazing to see the progress they made.”

Net referee Joe Helander agreed, as he was overheard telling Buc fans “Kingston looks much better than last year.”

Both teams exhibited heightened energy, which was fueled on by the crowd. A group of approximately 20 Viking fans made the trip to Kingston, and during any break in the action the crowd held a competition of its own.

As Kingston fans chanted “Kingston Power,” or “Let’s go Kingston, let’s go,” North echoed back substituting Vikings for Kingston. This persisted until the gym sounded like an out of control elementary school lunch room.

The Vikings took an early lead in set one, which it held for the entire three-set match, except for a brief moment in the third set when the Bucs pulled ahead by one. Kingston kept the sets within in two points until the crucial last five point plays of the sets.

“I’m really proud of them (Vikings,)” French said. “Kingston played well and very scrappy. They did not make it easy for us and our girls kept plugging away and eventually wore Kingston down a bit.”

The Vikings consistently put pressure on the Bucs, as Kingston had to scramble and repetitively break formation or lunge, sliding across the floor, to run the ball down.

“North is a good team on attack, but do have some weak spots in serve receive and we should have been able to take advantage of that,” Menne said. “As soon as North can pass the ball and attack they have some really strong players. We have to keep it consistent and we didn’t do that as much as I’d like to.”

The strength of North’s players, particularly freshman Sarah Baugh, No. 6 and junior Taylor Ottomano, No. 15, was evident at the net. Several times throughout the sets Baugh and Ottomano dominated, hitting bullets from the outside. It seemed like every time Kingston earned a few points, building up momentum, the two Vikings squelched it with precise attacks of their own. Ottoman nailed seven kills and Baugh tallied six. And that’s exactly what French planned for the Vikings offensive and attack games.

“Our strength is out there on the outside from those two girls,” French said. “They’re both very effective.”

The Bucs’ Achilles’ heel proved to be its serves, and Menne attributes the outcome of sets one and two to missed serves, as the Bucs faulted on about eight between the two sets. Every time a serve is missed it’s an automatic point for the opposing team. Menne said the serves “definitely” altered the course of the game and if the Bucs were more precise it would’ve changed the play of the game to a Kingston advantage.

This became clear during Kingston’s set three scoring run, as the Bucs nailed a series of serves, gaining seven back-to-back points.

“It was the serves,” Menne said of the seven-point comeback. “Jordan Tapp (junior, No.7) stepped in and served exactly where I asked her to and when we can take advantage of that it’s easy to come back from a deficit.”

Kingston travels to Port Townsend on Tuesday and North battles Olympic at home on Thursday.

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