Throughout the 2016 regular season, the Mercer Island girls volleyball team dominated nearly all of its opponents.
The Islanders, whose only loss came in a non-league matchup against the Bellarmine Prep Lions on Sept. 21, dominated KingCo league play in particular losing just two sets while winning every league match this season. Mercer Island earned a 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 25-13) win against the Bellevue Wolverines in the Class 3A KingCo volleyball tournament championship game on Oct. 30, but the title contest was much closer than the score indicated.
Bellevue senior Ally Witham’s ace gave her team a commanding 17-12 lead against Mercer Island in the first set of play. The Islanders went on a 13-2 run the rest of the way, earning a 25-19 win in the first set. In the second set, Bellevue jumped out to a 10-4 lead. Following a Mercer Island timeout, the Islanders outscored the Wolverines 21-12 down the stretch, earning a 25-22 win in the second set.
Mercer Island controlled the action throughout the third set (25-13) en route to the sweep. The Islanders improved their overall record to 17-1 with the win, while Bellevue dropped to 13-5 overall. Mercer Island head coach Susan Rindlaub was glad to see her team respond after trailing in the first and second sets of the matchup against their fiercest rival.
“I think it was good for us to be tested,” Rindlaub said. “Bellevue played really well in both of the first two sets. We were just making some errors. We were doing the hard things really well but were making stupid mistakes on easier plays. We just needed to calm down and start playing our game. Little by little we came back. I was really proud of the grit and determination we showed. It was really good to have our backs against the wall for a little bit, especially against our rival.”
Bellevue head coach Vance Kalingo was encouraged by his team’s performance against one of the best volleyball programs in Washington.
“We had a six-point lead in the second set and a good lead in the first set. We had some really good energy and I think we are in a good place right now,” Kalingo said. “We are the No. 2 seed going into districts and we will be playing against the ninth seed in Metro (league).”
Mercer Island outside hitter Kelly Behrbaum had a game-high of 14 kills in the victory. Adara Hamilton added nine kills as well in the win. While winning the KingCo title was exhilarating for the Islanders, it meant even more considering it was against the rival Wolverines.
“It’s a huge rivalry in all of our sports and not just in volleyball. There is a lot of emotions that come into it. We love the rivalry and appreciate it,” Rindlaub said of the matchup against Bellevue.