Mercer Island, the visiting team, goes through pre-game introductions at Seattle Prep.
High school volleyball championships aren’t won in September.
Mercer Island head coach Susan McKay knows this – her team won the championship last season. But the Islanders’ 3-1 win at Seattle Prep Tuesday night almost felt like a playoff game.
Not only because the match was closer than the final score indicated, but because Mercer Island had to respond to adversity before the game even started. Both Felicia Ng and Brooke Behrbaum have day-to-day injuries, and informed McKay they wouldn’t be able to play just before the 7 p.m. start.
Outside hitter Jemma Yeadon had shoulder soreness, which led to her playing libero.
So when Seattle Prep jumped out to an early lead and won the first set, McKay had her hands full.
“I think everyone was just so taken off guard and they were kind of overthinking things,” she said. “They weren’t playing as a team and when we have three or four different people playing in positions that they don’t necessarily always play in, it’s natural to be a little bit rattled.”
In the second set, Mercer Island trailed 9-2 early, but ended up battling back to tie it at 16. The Islanders won it 25-23.
The third set saw more of the same – the Panthers hanging around and giving the 2013 3A state champs everything they had. Mercer Island trailed by as many as six before going on an 11-3 run to win the set, 25-23.
“I was so proud of the way they responded, especially because we were down so much again in the second game,” McKay said. “But I told them ‘we can’t give up, we’re still in this’, and we just clawed our way back point by point.”
Things finally seemed to click for Mercer Island in the fourth set, which it won 25-17.
Going a game without Ng and Behrbaum and having to insert Yeadon in a position she never really plays taught McKay and her team something that will be valuable should it go on another deep run in the state tournament – adversity can come before you even step on the court.
Plus, facing a Seattle Prep team that finished second in Metro last season and made it to the second round of the state tournament is a test in itself.
“I think we really needed [a test],” McKay said. “I think it’s going to give them extra motivation and also just something to feel really proud about.”
Yeadon finished the night with 31 digs. Caroline Hamilton had 17 kills and seven digs, Kelly Behrbaum had 15 digs.
Kate Bubar led the way for the Panthers with 30 digs and 13 digs. Milou Haskin added 16 kills.
Mercer Island wins 3-1 – 18-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-17.