The Toppenish High School volleyball team finished its season on a winning note, knocking off Grandview in straight sets on Oct. 29.
The Wildcats claimed three CWAC wins this season and five match victories overall, showing tremendous improvement over last year’s winless campaign.
“The program had a tough year last year, so expectations weren’t too high,” said first-year head coach Chris Sommarstrom, a former assistant coach in Seattle. “We really improved throughout the season, and even though we missed out on districts, it was nice to get a win on senior night.”
The top six teams qualify for the district tournament, and Top-Hi finished in seventh at 3-6 (5-9 overall). Sommarstrom said his team missed an opportunity to move up on Oct. 22 when they fell to sixth-place Othello in straight sets.
“We didn’t play well against Othello, but we came back and played our best match of the year against Grandview,” he said. “We lost to them during the preseason, so it was good to see how much we had improved.”
Sommarstrom said he appreciated the leadership he saw all season from seniors Leslie Ramirez, Ariana Aguilera and Kassandra Tellez. Ramirez, a libero, totaled 156 digs this season and was selected to the all-CWAC second team. Aguilera was second on the team with 32 kills and Tellez recorded nine service aces.
“They did a great job for us and we’re going to miss them,” the coach said. “They’re all good friends off the court, too, and that made for a fun team atmosphere.”
Juniors Jalissa Johnson, Ariana Sanchez and Rosie Ramirez also played key roles, along with freshman Anahi Santacruz. Johnson was the team leader in kills and blocks, and she will be a key part of the Wildcats’ revival next season.
“Jalissa was our offensive workhorse,” Sommarstrom said. “She became one of our most valuable players as the season went along.”
Sanchez was a captain and served as the team’s emotional leader, while Rosie Ramirez, the setter, earned praise for her many talents.
“Rosie can do it all,” the coach said. “She’s a steadying presence for us because she can pass, set and hit effectively. But ultimately, her setting won out and that’s where we used her.”
The future appears bright for the young Wildcats, and coach Sommarstrom is already looking forward to next fall.
“Once the girls built trust in one another and learned the system, they started to play really good volleyball,” he said. “There are a lot of things to build on.”
CWAC volleyball was a two-team race this fall, with Ellensburg and Selah standing far above the competition.
The Bulldogs got the better of the Vikings in all three of their meetings — once in the preseason, once in league play and once in the district tournament — and went on to take second at the Class 2A state tournament. Selah went on to claim an eighth-place state trophy, winning a pair of matches against the state’s best teams.
Ellensburg finished the season at 18-2 overall and 9-0 in league, followed by Selah at 15-5 (8-1 CWAC). Ephrata, Prosser and Quincy all checked in at 6-3, while Othello grabbed the final district tournament spot at 4-5.
A much-improved Toppenish squad finished seventh at 3-6, followed by Grandview (2-7), East Valley (1-8) and Wapato (0-9).