Though the Catharine Blaine Tigers entered Thursday afternoon's play-offs with an 8-0 record, the 5-2 Hamilton Hawks nonetheless made short work of the Tigers 25-13 and 25-9 bringing the Tigers' hopes of a championship to an end.
Both teams entered the Ballard High School gym bubbling with confidence expressed with high-octane warm-ups and supportive drill-team cheers every time their teammates made a good move. One could feel the electricity and tension in the air as Game 1 began.
The Tigers and Hawks traded good service, sets, bumps and spikes early on. Hamilton had surged to a 5-2 lead in the first few minutes of play, when Noel Kennebeck of Hamilton began serving. Easily the tallest girl in the competition, Kennebeck made seven consecutive serves and stretched Hamilton's lead to 12-2. There were several great defensive plays by Blaine, and the offense was scrappy, led by Delaney Kirchmeier's solid serving. Kirchmeier helped bring the game closer, but Hamilton had amassed a momentum that could not be stopped and the Hawks took Game 1 25-13.
"I told them to go in playing hard and at our level no matter what team we face," said Hamilton coach Jordan Gerlitz.
Blaine coach Kawika Mokiao, in his second year, rallied the clearly stunned Tigers for the second game. And the Tigers stepped onto the court with their claws out. The Tigers' defense was stronger, returning rocket spikes by Hamilton's Kennebeck.
And offensively Blaine showed grit even holding a brief lead 8-7. But then that Hamilton muscle flexed again and the score was 9-9. Then it was 11-9 Hamilton, and Blaine, unfamiliar with losing, could not keep up. Hamilton took Game 2 25-9 and advanced to Saturday's championship match.
The loss was hard for the Tigers, a few of them sat on the bench with tears streaming down their faces. Others hugged and said encouraging words. Coach Mokiao was upbeat.
"I'm proud of them. They worked hard all season. I coached but they did the rest," Mokiao said. "It was a learning experience for them. You have to lose sometimes, too."
Kirchmeier was upbeat as well and tipped her hat to Hamilton.
"We did really well and that was a really tough team, the best competition yet," she said.[[In-content Ad]]