POULSBO — If anyone at North Kitsap’s nearly-packed gymnasium Tuesday thought the Olympic League 2A volleyball match between rivals North Kitsap and the Kingston Buccaneers didn’t live up to its pre-match hype they would be sorely mistaken.

With nearly every point contested by long rallies, amazing digs, and hard hits it was like watching two heavyweight champions pounding each other for 15 rounds.

Neither team gave an inch. Neither team dared to make a mistake.

It was the Vikings who edged Kingston 25-21, 26-24 and 27-25 in what should be remembered as an instant classic. 

“It was so fun,” was North Kitsap senior Maddie Pruden’s first reaction when asked what it was like to play in a game that intense. 

Pruden, a recent transfer to NK from Utah who has earned a scholarship to play at Seattle Pacific University next season, said Kingston gave the Vikings all they could handle and then some.

“They’re really good so it was nice to have them play against us, but I think we gave them a good fight and I think we clicked at the end,” Pruden said. 

North Kitsap’s Taylor Clodfelder attempts a block on a hit by Kingston’s Melanie Borson during an Olympic League volleyball match Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, in Poulsbo. North Kitsap won 3-0.
(Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

North Kitsap, which earned the state’s No. 1 ranking Tuesday in Class 2A by the Washington Volleyball Coaches Association, improved to 7-0 in league and 8-0 overall. 

Vikings coach Tim French couldn’t hide his relief, and wouldn’t hide his admiration, for the way the Buccaneers played in all three sets.

“I think the caliber of play was high,” French said. “I’ve got to hand it to Ed and Kingston, like every other team they’re coming to get us. They played really well.”

Kingston’s Grayce Hentzel (9) and Morgan Halady (13) attempt to block the hit by North Kitsap’s Riley Rabedeaux during an Olympic League volleyball match Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, at Poulsbo. NK won the match 3-0.
(Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

The Vikings saw the return of two players, setter Autumn Carver and libero/setter Kialey Moon, and that changed the dynamic of an already potent lineup. 

“It’s a good problem to have,” French said, adding it’s just a matter of where to put in players. “I feel like we can attack from so many areas. Early in the match, I don’t think we were getting (our hitters) involved. We were trying to be too tricky. Finesse, instead of pounding it.”

The match was extremely close from the get-go as neither team had more than a 3-to-4-point lead in the opening set. North Kitsap trailed 14-11, then tied it at 14 and took a 17-16 lead. Kingston kept it close, falling behind 23-21 before the Vikings put it away 25-21 on a Noelani Barreith kill toward a hole in the Bucs’ defense at mid-court.

Kingston coach Ed Call said the Bucs (4-3, 5-4) didn’t play their best game but quickly added an explainer. The Bucs have had just one practice with the lineup that took to the court against the Vikings, and he knows where the holes are and what the data shows.

“This was day two of that six in those places and we’ve just entered the conversation,” he said. “I like that. Again, when we were 0-2 having lost in five to South, and in three (to North) at our place, I like where we are. We’ve added another loss, against the No. 1 team in the state and a very high-quality team … every match that we lost is one that we believe we could have won. We believe that.”

Melanie Borson (15), Ava McCabe (7), along with Sam Young (8), Morgan Halady (13) and Gabrielle Johnson (5) celebrate a point against North Kitsap in an Olympic League volleyball match Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, in Poulsbo. North Kitsap won 3-0.
(Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

Set two was similar to the first in both the close score and tiny runs. Neither team gained much of an advantage, Kingston again took a 15-11 lead but North closed the gap and took over the lead 19-17. The Bucs came back, up 21-17 on an Ava McCabe kill, only to see NK fight back. Barreith’s kill from the right side sliced through the Bucs defense to make it 22-20 Kingston late in the set.

A kill by Pruden and an error by Kingston tied the score at 22. Both teams went back and forth as the anticipation built. Tied at 24, North gained the advantage on a kill by Autumn Carver and at set point, Carver set up the assist to Pruden for a big strike past Kingston’s defense 26-24.

In the third set, North had a lead of 10-6 and 13-8 before Kingston rallied to lead 22-20. With three final ties at 23-all, 24-all, and 25-all, North took a 26-25 lead for match point as Kingston called a timeout.

When play resumed, Kingston returned Barreith’s serve and NK’s Lexi Belinski had a huge dig to keep the ball in play. Riley Rabedeaux’s hit for North was mishandled by Kingston and went out of play ending the match.

“We’re not happy about tonight,” Call said of the loss, “but we’re certainly not worried about tonight either.”

The Vikings’ depth showed up in their stat line as not one player stood out but collectively left everything on the court. Pruden finished with seven kills, but Rabedeaux led with 20 digs and eight kills, Barreith added 14 digs and seven kills while middle blocker Taylor Clodfelder had six blocks and five kills. Taylyn Boop was also solid at the net, coming away with seven blocks and Joslyn League added 10 assists. Carver finished with 13 assists while Belinski also had eight digs for NK.

Kingston, which had 39 kills as a team, was just as deep as their counterparts. Ava McCabe finished with 13 kills and 15 digs — Call had asked his hitters to be more active in the back row and it proved effective Tuesday — Sam Young added six kills and nine digs while Grayce Hentzel led all setters with 39 assists. Morgan Halady finished with 11 kills and sophomore libero Olivia Call pitched in eight digs on the defense.  

North Kitsap’s Noelani Barreith goes for a hit against Kingston during an Olympic League volleyball match Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, in Poulsbo. North Kitsap won 3-0.
(Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)
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