The Washougal volleyball team has been on a tremendous upswing — knocking off Columbia River and Hockinson in back-to-back matches.
On Sept. 28, the Panthers pushed Mark Morris to five sets at home. Washougal also swept R.A. Long Sept. 21, in Longview.
“I’m feeling like my girls are finally starting to step up,” said head coach Mallorie Henker. “They’re starting to realize that they can win and they’re starting to play like they can win.”
The Panthers clinched all three of those league victories on the road, but they’re still trying to figure out how to defend their home court.
“My girls go on the road with a totally different mentality,” Henker said. “They want to take control of their gym. I’m telling them, ‘We got to protect our own space.’ We’re working on it.”
Emily Johnson served right off the bat for Washougal against Columbia River, and the Panthers scored seven points in a row. The Chieftains were down 2-0 before they got a set back, but Washougal regained the momentum and secured the victory in four.
“I think we were really ready to just pull out a win,” said senior libero Maggie Hungerford. She racked up 28 digs in the match. “I felt good and I had my teammates behind me.”
Johnson combined 33 assists with 15 digs, two aces and a block.
“It sends chills down my back, just to get a great dig and then a solid kill,” she said. “You can really feel the energy. It’s amazing.”
Kaylee Baldwin led the attack with 18 kills and 21 digs. Beyonce Bea added 11 kills and 10 digs.
“Our defense was good and our offense was really good, too,” Baldwin said. “When we have both of those two combined, it’s a lot better for us as a team.”
Bea went 13-for-13 serving for the Panthers in the victory against Hockinson. She also had eight kills and 12 digs.
“I think we just came in really confident,” Bea said. “We work well together as a team. We’re getting better and better every game. We just really wanted it, and performed well.”
Baldwin earned 18 digs and seven kills against Hockinson. Johnson added 13 digs, 10 digs and three kills. Rylee Erdwins chipped in six digs, three aces, three assists and two kills.
The bond between these Panthers is growing with every game.
“I love being on this team, especially since I have been playing with a lot of these girls since freshman year,” Baldwin said. “Just growing as a team is a big thing. I think we are going to do really well the rest of this season.”
Hungerford and Johnson agree.
“We keep building off each other and everything that our past seniors have taught us,” Hungerford said.
“We’re teaching the younger girls to stay positive and to really give their all and not give up,” Johnson added. “Just stay together.”
The Washougal volleyball team is determined to end one of the longest playoff droughts in school history. Henker said the Panthers haven’t qualified for the district tournament since the 1980s.
“I think people are starting to see that Washougal volleyball has a lot to offer,” she said. “Every year, we’ve won more and more and more.”
This is the first group of seniors Henker has coached since they were freshmen. She appreciates all the hard work and dedication these seniors are giving on the court and in the classroom.
“I really care a lot about these girls. They have worked really, really hard over the last four years,” Henker said. “I think they have shown that they deserve to make it (to the playoffs). We’re hoping we can make it happen. We’re working really hard for it.”