Vikings season ends with a heartbreaker

Junior outside hitter Taylor Ottomano stretches tall for one of her many kill or trick tap-over plays during playoff action against North Thurston Thursday night at the Vikings’ gym. The Vikings lost the match in five.  - Tara Lemm/Staff Photo
Junior outside hitter Taylor Ottomano stretches tall for one of her many kill or trick tap-over plays during playoff action against North Thurston Thursday night at the Vikings’ gym. The Vikings lost the match in five.
— image credit: Tara Lemm/Staff Photo

POULSBO — Apparently the Viking volleyball team has a preference for even numbers, namely two and four.

The North Kitsap Vikings versus the North Thurston Rams loser out/winner to districts match, played at the Vike’s gym on Thursday evening, was exactly as a postseason playoff game should be, lasting the full five sets.

The Rams came out bucking, the Vikes were a little flat, and set one went to Thurston 25-15. The Vikings rallied, scrambled, hustled and clawed to win sets two and four.

But when the last serve of set five was smacked off the palm of a North Thurston hand, the Vikings were left sprinting after the ball and the Rams claimed match point and the victory in five: 25-15, 26-24 NK, 25-18, 25-21 NK, 15-13.

The Rams, the No. 3 3A team from the Western Cascade League, advance to the district tournament and the Vikings, the Olympic League’s No. 2 3A team, witnessed their season end.

“It was one of our harder games of the year. We couldn’t make any mistakes and we couldn’t count on them to make mistakes. They’re a good team,” said junior outside hitter Taylor Ottomano after the game. Ottomano said the Vikes played their best and the loss was hard, especially as last year ended in a similar fashion, but she didn’t let it shake her. “I mean it sucks, but you have to take it as it comes. It was fun to just play with each other. It was fun playing a good team, it’s always fun to play a good game.”

Head coach Tim French took the loss a little harder, calling it “heart-wrenching.” He felt bad for his athletes and said they deserve to keep playing. He told the girls after the game he was proud of them, and they should hold their heads high because they played their best. French still wants to watch the Vikings compete, but he also gives the Rams credit.

“They’re (Vikings) so fun to watch,” he said. “It was a great game. North Thurston impressed me a great deal. They’re very consistent and played great defense.”

The Vikes landed in a loser-out position as they were tied for top Olympic League 3A honors with Olympic High School. On Oct. 30, North hosted Olympic to a tie breaker with the winner receiving an automatic ticket to districts and the loser, or No. 2 seed, having to compete and win a playoff round before moving on in postseason action.

North lost to Olympic in five, and the Olympic League’s No. 2 3A school won’t get to see the courts at districts.

French said the playoff approach to maneuvering postseason placement was brand new this year, as before the No. 1 and 2 Olympic League teams automatically went to districts. However, the new approach could allot for three Olympic League teams advancing or vice versa for the Western Cascade League.

It just so happened this year’s postseason change didn’t work out favorably for the Vikings.

“I’m not sure whose idea it was, but it was voted on and agreed upon as a league,” French said.

Although Thursday ended like a thud in the gut, the Vikes played awesome volleyball with some pretty impressive displays.

Ottomano was stoked because the Vikes season goal was to play as one giant family, which they did through out the season, and Thursday night.

“We all lost together, we all win together,” Ottomano said. “We’re there for each other.”

French commented on the Vikings blocking ability. He said the team had been working on blocks throughout the season and on Thursday it paid off. The Vikes nailed 15 blocks, where they usually hit about three. And their serves were on target once again, only faulting on three out of 83.

“That helped keep us in the match. And the way we battled. We just kept fighting and clawing and staying in the match. They’ve done it all year long,” French said.

Thursday marked the final game of their high school volleyball career for three seniors, Alanna Shores, Haley Fidler and Lindsay Kocker.

French attributes the Vikes chemistry and “team spirit like no other” to the three seniors, who’ll be sorely missed.

“They were such a big part of the team, we’ll really miss their leadership next year,” he said.

The Vikes finished their season with a 12-5 overall record and a 9-3 league record.

Stats: Sarah Baugh, 12 kills, 19 assists and nine digs; Taylor Ottomano, 19 kills and five blocks; Jordan Denning, 10 assists; Claire Torstenbo, seven blocks; Bryana Bohl, 17 digs, Alanna Shores, 18 digs, and the team made 80/83 serves for 96.4 percent.

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