|Columbia Basin League Champion|
Most of the Hanford volleyball team can't remember the last time the program carried the No. 1 seed into the district playoffs.
For one, no one on the current roster had been born when Hanford last accomplished the feat.
But the Falcons players are bent on ensuring their fans won't have to wait that long again after a 25-18, 25-22, 13-25, 25-11 win over Kamiakin on Saturday at Eyrie Gymnasium on the Hanford campus.
The tiebreaker between the Columbia Basin 3A League co-champions gave the Falcons the No. 1 seed -- their first since 1987 -- and the right to play host to the CBL district tournament, which begins Thursday.
Hanford gets a first-round bye and will play host to the winner of Thursday's 7 p.m. match between West Valley and Southridge at 10 a.m. Saturday at Enterprise Middle School. The Braves will play the Eastmont-Kennewick winner at 10 a.m. Saturday at Eyrie Gym.
"It's huge," said Hanford coach Hugh Harris, a Kamiakin assistant from 2000-04. "These girls have gone through so much over the years. They've adopted what we try to teach them not only skill-wise, but mentally how to survive all sorts of adversity."
Brittany Quick was a rock for the Falcons, leading all hitters with 24 kills but also providing a formidable block on Braves attacks. The 6-1 middle blocker finished the night with seven blocks, including three in the deciding Game 4.
"Our team chemistry has been great this year, and that makes things a lot easier," Quick said. "Before the game, I wrote a letter to all the girls telling them what awesome teammates they have been."
The Falcons, looking to break a 1-1 tie in the season series with the Braves, controlled the match early, taking the first two games 25-18 and 25-22. But Hanford knew better than to celebrate early.
"At Kamiakin we went up 2-0 and lost the next three games," Harris said. "I told them, 'This is a different time and a different team. Let's not make the same mistake twice.' "
The Braves fought back to win Game 3 as Emily Jepsen tallied three straight service aces and four of her team-high 16 kills to give Kamiakin the 25-13 win.
"I changed my lineup a little, and it worked," said Kamiakin coach Mary Opitz. "We've come from two-game deficits before."
After that, Harris challenged sophomore hitter Stacy Stanhope to step it up for Game 4. To that point, she hadn't registered any kills through the first three games.
"Ever since the Crossover Tournament, she's averaged eight kills a match," Harris said. "I showed her the stats, and we'd talked about this all week. We needed her to contribute."
Stanhope responded with three kills and a service ace in the final game.
"She was really mad, saying the sets were off the net, so I told her, 'You need to wait for it,' " Quick said. "The first set she got in Game 4, she blasted it down the line."
Opitz was confident her team would bounce back for their first match in districts.
"We just had a few too many errors, and we got stuck in a bad rotation," she said. "(Hanford) has very good team defense, and they dig up a lot of stuff. Defense wins championships."
HANFORD d. Kamiakin 25-18, 25-22, 13-25, 25-11: Kamiakin—Emily Jepsen 16 kills, 5 aces, 13x15 serving; Jordan Reddinger 18 assists, 19x19 serving; Marcy Hjellum 11 digs, 6 kills; Elise Jepsen 6 kills. Hanford—Brittany Quick 24 kills, 7 blocks, 2 aces; Kristin Barott 30 assists, 5 aces, 3 blocks, 14x14 serving; Janelle King 18 digs, 5 aces, 4 kills, 20x21 serving; Stacey Stanhope 13 digs, 8x8 serving.