Absolute madness: A back-and-forth volleyball battle with emotions unhinged, blistering kills, ground-scraping digs and plenty of screams from both sides.
In the anticipated rematch between 4A KingCo rivals, North Creek defeated Issaquah, 3-1, on Oct. 30 to claim the league tournament championship at Bothell High. North Creek went up 25-21 and 25-20 before Issaquah rebounded with its back to the wall with a 25-21 third-game win before the Jaguars put the match away, 25-22, in the fourth.
Earlier this month, Issaquah beat North Creek, 3-0, in league play and won the regular-season title. Now the two teams — which both notched 8-1 league records — are playing in the Wes-King District playoffs with high hopes of reaching the state tournament.
For North Creek (18-1 overall), league most valuable player Gabby Kepley amassed a stunning 40 kills, followed by Allison Wilks with 10. In the dig department for the Jaguars, Alisa Kim had 29, Korynne Leon had 15 and Jenna Howard had 14.
North Creek head coach Richard Abiador discussed Kepley: “She went off — and she did the same thing for semifinals. She basically, these last two matches, put her team on her back and willed the team to win.” Kepley’s kill amount is a high for her and she even dinked in a few to go along with her left-handed blasts.
Kim noted that the match was brimming with energy and intensity.
“At the beginning, we knew it was gonna be a tough match. We were like, ‘Hey, we’re gonna come out with a lot of energy, we’re gonna play our best match, we’re gonna work together,’ and I think we really did that,” she said. “Throughout the match, it was a lot of communication between all the players and keeping each other up.”
Zoe Hennings led Issaquah (15-2 overall) with 14 kills and Liz Gorski tallied 11; Abby May and Hailey White had 14 digs each; and Sadie Bacon had five blocks.
Abiador credited Issaquah for bringing a solid game to the court.
“They’re so balanced, they’re tall, great ball control, lot of energy, but ultimately I think, we were just a little better on ball control and our offense was just a notch stronger,” he said.
The Jaguar coach was excited for the rematch with Issaquah, and as usual, he strolled the sidelines trying to help his team win by identifying opponents’ weaknesses and tendencies and communicating that information to his players, he noted.
“That’s what I try to do to help win certain points,” said Abiador, adding that if his team is in a hole, winning two or three points in a row — a little game battle, he calls it — can help the Jaguars gain momentum.
In district play on Saturday, North Creek beat Glacier Peak, 3-2, and will play Monroe at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Bothell High.
On the all-league list, Kim was named defensive player of the year; Howard and Wilks are first-teamers; and Leon and Sara Fadely are honorable mentions.