Islanders volleyball team clinches spot at state tournament

With a berth in the Class 3A state volleyball tournament on the line, the Mercer Island Islanders came through in the clutch against their biggest rival.

The Islanders registered a 3-1 (25-17, 25-22, 22-25, 25-17) victory against the Bellevue Wolverines in a winner-to-state, loser-out volleyball match in the Class 3A Sea-King tournament on Nov. 4 at Sammamish High School in Bellevue. The Islanders, who clinched the No. 5 seed out of their district at the state tournament on Nov. 10-11, defeated the Wolverines four times during the 2017 season.

“To be honest I wasn’t looking forward to playing them again because Bellevue is a really good team and its hard to beat the same team four times in one season,” Mercer Island head coach Susan Rindlaub said. “This is the best we’ve played all year. We had to raise our game and we did. I’m so proud of them. They are so confident, have so much energy and play the game together. It was really cool.”

Every time the Islanders needed a crucial point senior outside hitter Kelly Behrbaum delivered with timely kills, giving the Islanders an abundance of momentum throughout the most important match of the 2017 season.

“She was on fire. She is such a gamer and she always plays so well in the playoffs,” Rindlaub said of Behrbaum. “She turns sets that weren’t easy to hit into kills. She just played awesome.”

Behrbaum was thrilled her squad conquered the Wolverines for the fourth time this season.

“We’ve worked so hard for this and to be able to win against such a good team as them is amazing. There was a lot of pressure but we all trust each other a ton. We were really just genuinely excited to play (this match),” Behrbaum said.

The Islanders are looking forward to the Class 3A state tournament on Nov. 10-11 at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.

“Obviously getting the fifth seed wasn’t what we hoped for but I told them if our goal is to win state (championship) then we have to be able to beat every team. It doesn’t really matter what our seeding is. We just have to get there and we’re there. We have six seniors and they know this is their last chance at state. This (victory against Bellevue) gives us a lot of momentum heading into next weekend,” Rindlaub said.

Bellevue head coach Vance Kalingo was gracious in defeat. The Wolverines compiled an overall record of 16-7 during the 2017 season.

“Mercer Island had our number all year. The better team won today but we gave it our best shot,” Kalingo said. “The girls fought hard. It was a really stacked KingCo and Sea-King district. It is just tough. You got to bring your “A” game every single point.”

Kalingo said this year’s team had a wealth of experience. The Wolverines had eight seniors and four juniors on the varsity roster.

“In the end, they put the best product out on the court,” Kalingo said of his squad. “I’m really proud of the girls.”

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