When the Kennewick volleyball team won its first match this season, it was a big sigh of relief after going winless last year.
Two wins was great, three made it a bonafide win streak, and after beating rival Southridge 25-19, 25-13, 25-17 in a Mid-Columbia Conference match on Thursday for the first time since 2012, the Lions just might be for real.
“I’ve been told they have had this mental block against Southridge for years,” first-year Kennewick coach Brandy Sonderland said. “Every team is beatable. You have to show up and do the right things, and that includes us. Next week we have some tough ones (Chiawana and Richland), but they are both at home.”
Breanna Shaffer led the Lions with 15 kills and 14 digs, and sophomore M’Kaylah Mangum added 12 kills in her best match of the season, according to Sonderland.
“M’Kaylah stepped up and had a great performance and was confident,” Sonderland said. “It was nice to have an additional hitter to rely on.”
The Lions (4-2) found themselves in a bit of a hole to start the first set, trailing 14-8 after Southridge’s Rayna Carlson and Bobbi Newton did a fair amount of damage at the service line.
Back-to-back kills by Shaffer brought Kennewick within 14-10, and an ace serve by Madeline Gebers had the Lions within 14-11.
After the Suns (1-5) picked up a point, the Lions went to work. Shaffer had a kill, then served up two aces to make it 15-14.
The teams forged ties of 16-all and 17-all before Kennewick closed out the match with strong serving by Abbie Johnson-Cuello and Tierra Townsend. An ace serve by Kidera Miller sealed the win.
“That first set we looked good, then we freaked out,” Southridge coach John Lengphounpraseut said. “I’ve been in this game a long time. If I figure it out, it will be a miracle. In the second set, we were within five and we collapsed again. That is hard to fix, but we will get it done.”
The Lions roared out to an 11-0 lead to open the second set, with Shaffer serving a string of 10 consecutive points.
The Suns rallied back to within 17-12, but Johnson-Cuello reeled off three points, and April Buckingham served for the win with Monica Kaylor registering a kill.
Southridge again trailed early in the third set, but pulled within 18-13 before the Lions ran away with the set and match.
“This is us,” Shaffer said. “This is exciting. It’s fun to be the leader of the Kennewick schools. It’s a first in a long time.”
Gebers handed out 27 assists and Kaylor added six kills and 14 digs for the Lions.
“They are bringing it on the court and in practice,” Sonderland said. “They are finding a way to compete and win. I remind them to stay hungry and to stay humble.”
Sophia Sumner led the Suns with 12 kills and 13 digs, while Kennedy Conrad had 20 assists and four kills, and Shayla Hood 18 digs.
“We will be OK,” Lengphounpraseut said. “We need more time to make adjustments and we get Riley (Hebdon) back on Tuesday. We have missed that experience and leadership out there.”