Emerald Ridge cruised to a 3-1 win against the Newport Knights on Saturday afternoon, and bedlam ensued at St. Martin’s University in Lacey as the Jaguars capped their season with a third-place state tournament trophy.
The Jaguars players were jovial after their 25-12, 25-22, 26-28, 25-21 victory, and so was head coach Bobby McGivern, who said last summer the goal for his team was to finish in the top four in the state.
“We did it,” McGivern said before he walked off the court for the final time this season. “I’m just proud of the way the girls have done everything they had set out to do this year as far as achieving all of their goals. It is pretty indicative of all their hard work throughout the whole season to be at this point and be able to enjoy this moment with everybody.”
Emerald Ridge (31-4) made its statement with a flawless first set against Newport. Senior middle hitter Tristyn Smith wasn’t surprised to see her squad come out strong.
“There was a little bit of nerves, but we came out with a lot of energy,” she said. “We wanted it.”
Smith said the informal summer training sessions during which the players pushed themselves paid off in the most important match of the season.
“We knew that being a conditioned team was so important,” she said. “Everything we put into the season, and all of the hard work we put into it, came down to that last game.”
Emerald Ridge junior Jenna Mullen had a game-high 20 kills in the win. Smith had seven kills and five blocks.
EMERALD RIDGE SWEEPS SKYLINE IN OPENER
The Jaguars made a statement with a three-game sweep of the Skyline Spartans in the first round of the tournament on Friday, although the match was much closer than the score indicated.
Emerald Ridge won 25-11, 26-24, 25-20, but Skyline held a 17-11 lead in the second game before the Jaguars rallied.
Mullen said all it takes is one solid point to get the Jaguars in gear.
“We got a key point on our side, and we just used that momentum to carry it on from there,” she said. “We went on a run after that. We wanted to use our momentum and push through, because we don’t want to be the team that is down and is always having to come back. We want to start off strong and finish it.”
McGivern said Skyline proved to be a tough first-round opponent.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons, and today we just happened to be a little bit better than they were,” McGivern said. “For us, it’s just about staying composed and just playing one ball at a time. That has always been our motto.”
McGivern said the Jaguars played proficient defense in the pivotal second set.
“We told our team to set that double block,” he said. “We wanted to play defense behind that block, and then get a dig up to our hitters. That’s exactly what happened when Jenna (Mullen) got that kill on the outside (on the winning point).”
Mullen finished the match with 18 kills and eight digs. Emerald Ridge setter Isabella Zubrod added 32 assists and 11 digs.