KENNEWICK – The Mead volleyball team is a win away from getting back to the State 4A championship.
For that to happen, though, the Panthers must raise their level.
To their credit, the Panthers were resilient during the opening day, sweeping Bothell 25-23, 28-26, 25-23 in a quarterfinal after opening with a 25-13, 22-25, 25-21, 25-23 win over Tahoma at Toyota Center.
Mead (23-2) meets Kentwood a semifinal Saturday at 1 p.m. Kentwood (19-7) knocked off defending state champ Curtis to advance.
It’s the first time Mead has made it to the semifinals since 2012 when it finished second. The last time Mead won the title was in 2009.
“That makes me older quicker,” Mead coach Shawn Wilson said after the Panthers held off Bothell. “They (Bothell) played really tough and they had good momentum. It’s like our first match. We’re down a bunch and our team is so resilient and doesn’t give up.”
After winning the first set, Mead fell behind 16-8 in the second. But the Panthers scratched their way back, tying it up at 24.
Moments later, Katherine McEuen got a kill through a block for the set point.
In the third set, Mead appeared to be in good shape leading 24-20. But Bothell cut the lead to one before Amanda Chan got the winner.
Maddie Lee led Mead with nine kills and Chad had eight. Laurel Kassa played well, finishing with 22 digs.
“It’s the most resilient team I’ve ever coached,” Wilson said. “We need to play better (Saturday). We were pretty inconsistent with a lot of things that we did. We did enough to get by.”
In the opener, Mead found the wherewithal to hold off Tahoma.
The Panthers found themselves in a 16-8 hole in the second set. Lee somehow got a fist on a free ball and directed it over the net to an open area, tying the match at 20.
“I don’t know what happened there,” Lee said. “That’s for sure my ball and I don’t know why I was hesitating. That should have been an easy dig.”
After a 21-all tie, Mead pulled out the win. Lee got an ace on set point.
Lee led Mead with 13 kills, five aces and two blocks. Chan added 11 kills and 15 digs.
“I think we all underestimated Tahoma a lot because of the first game,” Lee said. “They for sure got their groove together and came back strong. We just weren’t ready for it in the second set. Their quick tempo hurt us and our blocks weren’t prepared for it. And our defense was discombobulated.”
The fourth set was back and forth until McKenna Russell managed a dig off a free ball that found open court to give Mead a 17-15 lead. The Panthers extended the lead to 20-15.
Tahoma fought back. A kill by Jordan Shoff gave Mead a 24-20 lead.
But Tahoma crawled back, pulling within 24-23 before a Chan kill gave Mead the match.
“We just had to switch our mindset to not being scared of their size and tipping and stuff, so we had to go all out and swing as hard as we could and be confident in ourselves,” Lee said. “Once we got our confidence back, it showed.”
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