Amazing run for volleyball

This year has not been a good one for local sports.

The Sonics leaving for Oklahoma, the down right horrible football seasons of local teams and I won’t even start with the Mariners.

But one local team has been able to maintain a high level of success despite some big setbacks.

The Mercer Island High School volleyball team took fourth place at state Friday not because they were the biggest or the fastest team, the hardest hitting or the most experienced. They took fourth because they exemplified the word “team.”

Mercer Island’s defense was one of the biggest reasons for its success. The team set new school records for digs two times this season, including its final match at state.

The Islanders arguably lost their most important position player, setter, during the offseason to graduation. A setter in volleyball is like the team’s quarterback. Islander sophomore Ariel Dewey stepped in this season and her new team did not lose a beat.

Playing a position where communication and placement are paramount, Dewey forged a place with the Islanders that most find impossible during their first season on varsity.

One place that Mercer Island lost a little from 2007 was in height. But the team made up for that with skill. Islanders Ally Bray and Sabrina Rasmussen, among others, made it very difficult for opposing teams to telegraph the placement of their hits.

Talk about hitting, the Islanders had two of the best in state. Mercer Island’s Janelle Chow and Shayda Sanii made a powerful duo that struck fear into KingCo opposition all year long. Chow is considered one of the best athletes in the school, and took the game to another level. Sanii came into her own with precision and power from the outside.

But the Islanders played as a team; not just a few players competing for their own egos and getting lucky. Team leaders such as Chelsea Jurkovich took on new rolls in a season that was supposed to be a rebuilding year after losing four major players.

The fact that the Islanders have not lost a match to a KingCo opponent in nearly three full seasons is ironic considering the coaches on the bench.

Julia and Susan Rindlaub are part of a family that brought huge success to the program during the late part of the 1990s and early portion of this decade. Those teams were dominant in KingCo and made numerous state runs.

Head coach Dino Annest is the biggest part of the puzzle. He does not get enough credit for the program, or should I say family, he runs at the school.

The KingCo league’s coach of the year, has produced winning teams for 15 years.

Volleyball is a sport where it is tough to maintain success. It is also unforgiving. The momentum factor can help or end a season prematurely. Undefeated teams can hit a rough patch and be out of a tournament in a matter of 20 minutes.

The momentum that helped the Islanders this year, ended the season last year. The Islanders’ success is not testament to a good feeder-program or a glut of amazing athletes. The academic rigors of Mercer Island High School can give some coaches fits and stress out certain kids.

But the success of balancing it all comes from Annest’s ability to get the most out of his players and bring the players together as a team. This year, that team maintained momentum and brought the school something that every Islander can be proud of — a fourth-place state trophy.

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