For a program brimming with 25 state trophies and six championships, 2005 was the heart of that dominance and the beginning of a title three-peat during a switch from 3A to 2A. Roger Underwood was a busy man in the Everett Events Center this night, not only covering Selah and Ellensburg in the 3A final but Eisenhower taking on Mead for the 4A title as well. The Valley earned seven state volleyball trophies in 2005, the most ever.
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EVERETT — It was over, the championship Selah had used its collective head, heart and soul to win, when coach Kay Aberle issued one last directive.
“Smile for Mr. Aberle,” she said, herself beaming while pointing to her husband, Tim, who is also the Vikings athletic director.
Tim Aberle stood calmly at courtside Saturday night, preserving via videocam the celebration surrounding him and Selah’s 3-0 conquest of Ellensburg for the Class 3A state volleyball championship.
The scores were 25-15, 25-20, 25-15.
The all-Mid-Valley League final in the Everett Events Center provided the Vikings’ fifth win in as many tries this season against the Bulldogs, although this one was clearly the most meaningful.
“This group of girls,” Kay Aberle said, “is very special. They had the highest GPA (grade point average, at 3.745) of all the 3A volleyball teams in the state. And they won a state championship. What else could you ask for?”
In claiming Aberle’s fourth state title, and first since 1997, Selah finished 33-2, with its only losses coming to Class 4A Olympia and Mead. As the Vikings savored their victory, the Panthers of Spokane were en route to their third consecutive state crown at the opposite end of the arena.
“I’m still in a state of shock,” said junior Allyson Powell, who dealt 32 assists and had 13 digs. “I knew we could do this. But now that we have, it’s just so great.”
Added a tearful senior McKenzie Headley, who totaled five kills, “This is just excellent. It’s like a dream. I don’t know why I always cry when we win.”
To reach the final, top-ranked Selah first on Saturday had to fight its way through a 3-2 gut-grinding win over No. 2 Issaquah.
Might that have drained the Vikings’ energy and blurred their focus?
“That just pumped us up,” sophomore Kierea Meloy said. “We’ve been excited the whole day.”
Said Aberle, “We’d played the three toughest teams in our bracket, and even though we’d beaten Ellensburg four times, we really didn’t want to lose to them in the most important match. We weren’t always as sharp as we might have been, but Ellensburg’s a great team and we knew we’d have to play decent to win.”
The Bulldogs, too, had done themselves and their league proud. They had won three of four matches at state, including an emotional five-game victory over yet another Mid-Valley member, West Valley, in an afternoon semifinal.
“I am very, very proud of these girls,” said Ellensburg coach Tara Affholter. “To reach this point was not easy because we have a very tough league.”
West Valley came within an eyelash of making the state tournament a rerun of last weekend’s regional, which saw Selah, Ellensburg and the Rams finish 1-2-3.
Selah completed its run to the title match by outlasting Issaquah, 27-25, 22-25, 25-23, 18-25, 15-8.
On Friday, the Vikings had dispatched first No. 10 Tumwater and then No. 6 White River, each by 3-1 scores, so their semifinal triumph made clear they had traversed an especially treacherous route.
“We made some adjustments, some involving blocking their players and some setting to the right people,” Powell said. “We’ve already played (and defeated) Ellensburg four times, but now we’ll just have to come back out and create some more excitement.”
Mission accomplished, and then some.
Down 7-2 in the first game, the Vikings went ahead 15-14 on Meggie Graf’s service ace and followed with six more unanswered points.
They trailed in the second game, too, but caught the Bulldogs at 18-18 and won going away.
Brianna Valencourt’s kill triumphantly finished the third game.
Asked the difference between the teams, Affholter pointed to her head and said, “It’s mental. Right now they have us in that department. They have a great program and Kay’s a great coach.”
To be sure, Selah seemed adaptable to just about anything the opposition threw at it, using power, finesse and, of course, brains.
“That’s just the way they’ve been,” said Aberle. “They see what’s going on and figure out what they have to do to change, if they need to. And then they do it.”
West Valley, meanwhile, had made the Bulldogs sweat for their championship appearance via a 25-17, 25-20, 16-25, 26-28, 15-8 defeat.
Sage Diessner totaled 18 kills and 27 digs for the Rams, while Kayla Standish had 16 kills, Brittany Chandler 15 and Talia Venera 14 for Ellensburg.
It was the Bulldogs’ third win in four matches against West Valley this season.
In a match for third and sixth places, the Rams fell to Issaquah 18-25, 17-25, 25-20, 25-23, 15-12.
In the fifth game, they had led 11-6.
“That wasn’t what we had in mind,” West Valley coach Jill Leuenberger said, “but still we’ve had an extremely good season. To play like we did yesterday was amazing.”
Plus, the Rams finished one place higher than last season.
“Our goal was to get here and to do better than we’d done a year ago,” Leuenberger said. “So we’re very happy with our season.”