When the state championship was no longer in the cards for the Camas High School volleyball team in Kennewick, fifth place became a worthy consolation prize.
Especially after the Papermakers defeated Capital 25-14, 26-24, 21-25, 18-25 and 15-12; Meadowdale 25-16, 27-25 and 25-17; and defending state champion Bishop Blanchet 25-17, 25-8 and 25-15 Saturday inside the Toyota Center.
“Our record of 30-2 is the best ever in Camas. The girls proved without a shadow of a doubt that they are the best team in Camas history, even if they didn’t get the highest finish at state,” said head coach Julie Nidick. “Seattle Prep being able to beat us in the first round was their springboard to a state championship. There’s no doubt in my mind how close we were to winning the whole thing.”
The Papermakers came out with fire in the opener against Seattle Prep. Brindl Langley ignited the offense with 15 kills, 23 digs and three aces. Stefani Sorensen added 14 kills, 23 digs and three blocks, and Marleen de Zoete delivered 44 assists and 20 digs.
“In the first three sets against Prep, we kept them off balance with our serving and quick attack,” Nidick said. “Then, we let up. Our serves were getting lighter, they started making better passes and the next thing you knew it was tied. It’s tough when you don’t play a five-set match before you get to state. I think that had a lot to do with our downfall in that match.”
Camas found itself in another five-set match with Capital Saturday morning, but this time the Papermakers persevered.
“In all the time outs, we kept saying ‘we are not ready to leave,'” said senior middle blocker Mariah Vega. “If we were going down, we were going down swinging and we were going down as a team. We just wanted to go out playing Camas ball, and doing the best that we could to represent our school.”
Sorensen scored 23 kills and 16 digs, and de Zoete added 48 assists and 13 digs. Langley had 14 kills, 19 digs and three aces, and Mckenzie Elliott chipped in 14 digs.
As day turned into night, Meadowdale and Bishop Blanchet ran into a Papermaker squad determined to finish the deal.
In the Meadowdale match, Sorensen racked up 15 kills and eight digs. De Zoete delivered 39 assists, 14 digs and three blocks, and Langley added 24 digs and seven kills. Sydney Schwartz earned eight kills, Sydney Trammell scored seven kills, and Kelsy Benton had five kills, four blocks and three aces.
Sorensen helped Camas finish off Bishop Blanchet for fifth place with 11 kills and 14 digs. Langley added 13 digs and seven kills, and de Zoete delivered six aces, four kills and 34 assists. Schwartz notched nine kills.
“Because all of us were so close, it showed on the court by how much fun we had,” said senior defensive specialist Hannah Taylor. “I’m proud of all my friends. They’ve been like a second family to me.
“Hopefully, I’ll stay friends with all of these girls over the years,” she added. “Volleyball taught me how to work hard, and to never give up. It showed I can pretty much do whatever I want in life.”
Seniors Benton, Sorensen, Taylor and Vega have played volleyball together since fifth grade. De Zoete moved to Camas when she was in sixth grade, and quickly became a part of the inner circle.
“We started out together as fifth graders, and ended all the way up here,” Vega said. “I’m happy with the journey.”
Nidick and the five seniors go all the way back to when she first coached them at the ages of 12 and 13.
“Honestly, it’s been such and honor to coach these five girls. The legacy they leave behind is that they’re all team players,” Nidick said. “Those girls got to where they’re at on sheer hard work and determination. I love them all.”
Vega hopes the seniors inspired a new generation of Camas volleyball players.
“No matter what the season looks like in the record books, I hope the future players have the same bond and love for the game that we had,” she said. “When I look back 10 or 20 years down the road, I’m going to remember these people that I played with.”