Irish out in three at state tournament

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YAKIMA - The DeSales Irish fell to Kittitas, 3-2, in the third round of the Washington state Class 2B volleyball playoffs Saturday at the Yakima SunDome, ending their tournament hopes.

Prior to Saturday's match, DeSales lost its first match, 3-0, to Pateros Friday. That loss put the Irish in the losers' bracket, meaning the highest they could place was seventh, but DeSales promptly rebounded and swept Orcas Island, 3-0.

Although the Irish failed to place, making State was a victory in and of itself, DeSales coach Lori Blanc said.

DeSales was the third seed in the District 9 tournament and lost its first match to Asotin, but then fought through a tough losers' bracket to garner the District's second spot at the State tournament, even knocking off the regular-season district champion Dayton in the process.

"As a player and as a coach, it's always a goal to end your season at state," Blanc said. "I think they (DeSales) represented themselves and the district well - they can be proud of how they finished."

Seniors Abby Larreau, Stephanie Ferrel, Annie Higgins, Chantelle Blanc and Bethany Konen played their final ball of their high-school careers.

"It (losing against Kittitas) was kind of emotional because they (seniors) knew it was the last game they were going to play, but they felt really good about how they played that last match," Blanc said. "They leave it all out on the court, no regrets."

Larreau, Ferrel, Higgins and Blanc played consistently on the varsity team since they were sophomores and were called up for district tournaments their freshman year.

"They are the core of the team, they have been probably for the last two years," Blanc said. "They're captains and they kinda keep the team going.

"All of the juniors (will need to step up)," Blanc said. "There's going to be some sophomores from this year as well who will need to step up and fill some big holes."

Ferrel, Blanc and Larreau all made the all-Southeast 2B first team; Higgins received an honorable mention.

Konen saw action primarily as a service specialist, it was her first season playing on the varsity squad.

DeSales struggled in serve-receive and adjusting to the six-court SunDome in the first match against Pateros Friday, falling 25-21, 25-19 and 25-20.

"... (There were) six courts and six games going on - it's loud," Blanc said, "once they got themselves adjusted and acclimated they were able to get more comfortable and gain control.

"We usually don't have problems with serve-receive," she continued," but they had some excellent servers that kind of caught us off guard. We hadn't seen anything like that in districts."

The Irish responded in the second match against Orcas Island with their tournament trip on the line.

"We had kind of just went into the game thinking that we wanted to be in control of the game instead of just playing catch up," Blanc said. "Start to finish, they (the Irish) really were.

"To start the match, there were only two unforced errors on our side and we really kept it together and won in three," she added.

DeSales took care of business in three: 25-12, 25-17 and 27-25.

Kittitas jumped out a took a quick two-set lead, posting 25-21 and 25-12 victories, and looked to put a quick end to DeSales, up 23-17 in the third set.

Once again, the Irish responded.

"The third game, the girls (the Irish) decided they didn't want to be done," Blanc said. "At one point we were down 23-17, but then we came back to win it 25-23. It was complete momentum change. The goal was to carry that into the fourth game and force a game five.

"Momentum is a huge part of the game, once you get three or four or five serves in a row you're able to get some momentum," she continued. "You have to give a little credit to the heart and the stamina of the girls to not pack it in after three games, they weren't ready to be done."

DeSales did force a fifth-set after defeating Kittitas 25-19 in the fourth, but they were unable to complete the comeback and fell 15-6 in the final set.

"It (taking the match to five sets) was (fitting), it was a good way to finish because they (the Irish) proved that they could compete," Blanc said. "Had they lost in three they would have really been upset."

Larreau led the Irish with 37 kills and 15 blocks through three matches. Higgins tallied 24 kills; Ferrel had 14 kills; sophomore Claire Conley had six kills and two blocks; and Chantel Blanc racked up 75 assists.

None of the seniors have plans to play college-level volleyball thus far, Blanc said.

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