Auburn Riverside outlasted Mead of Spokane in five sets last Saturday to repeat as 4A state volleyball champion.
Game scores in the title match at the Toyota Center in Kennewick were 25-23, 25-27, 21-25, 25-17, 15-5.
It is the program’s third state title in 22 seasons under coach Chris Leverenz.
“This group of young ladies is the most cohesive group I have ever coached,” Leverenz said. “They wear the term, ‘I play for HER,’ very well because that is what they do. They play for each other, and that is why it is so personal. Their love for each other goes way beyond what most high school teams experience.”
As they did in the district tournament a week ago, the Ravens (23-1) methodically dispatched three opponents – Skyline, Puyallup and Emerald Ridge – in three sets to reach the final.
Calley Heilborn, the Ravens’ 6-foot-1 star hitter, was tournament MVP. The Western Washington University-bound senior had 27 kills and 18 digs against Mead.
Setter Ciera Zimmerman, who has signed with Colorado State, distributed 52 assists in the title match, earning all-tournament team honors.
Kate Pestova produced 13 kills and 22 digs for the Ravens.
Auburn Riverside won its last 17 matches of the season.
Leverenz said her back-to-back championship teams are similar.
“The only difference is they had another year to grow together and created an even tighter bond than last year,” she said. “The addition of Kate Pestova to replace our graduating seniors was huge. She is a phenomenal player and fit perfectly into our mix. She is a caretaker, also, and loved this team immediately. They are funny, quirky and are able to keep things light without panicking in the moment.
“The leadership of Heilborn, (Anna) Maracich and Zimmerman was perfect because they all bring something different to the table. They are all intense, but Zimmerman is the most,” Leverenz said. “Heilborn is a sparkplug, who keeps us light through her humor and facial expression. She is beyond talented, yet gives the credit to everyone around her … a true leader. Maracich is the calm leader and understands the pulse of the team.
“They are a rare breed. … Hard to let go, for sure.”