It was by no means the result they were looking for, but the Yelm Tornados (3-4) fought hard in Thursday’s matchup against the No. 1 Capital Cougars (7-0), applying late pressure and nearly clinching the second set, but ultimately falling short in a 3-0 loss.
The resulting match was a close loss for the fourth-year Yelm program. The Cougars clinched the first, second and third set 25-11, 27-25 and 25-19, respectively.
“Going into tonight (the goal) was just to play competitively. We played them close in the summer league, so I knew we could play with ‘em,” Yelm Head Coach John Reopelle said. “They’re good and I think we gave them something to think about. We played right with them for two sets.”
The Tornados got going late against the Cougars, who were able to secure five points off the bat at the Yelm High School court. Yelm’s first point came off a defensive block of Capital’s Madison Nichols.
Despite the Cougars taking a substantial lead in the first match, Yelm leveraged a strong backline defense and set ups when they came. Sophomore libero Cloie Sweet, sophomore outside hitter Jaelynn Carrier and senior setter Kara Fourre kept up the pressure. Junior outside hitter Natalie McLaughlin also made a few key blocks for Yelm.
In the second set, Yelm took the lead at the 8-point mark, until Capital came back and took the lead at 23 points. The Cougars would ultimately seal the deal.
Although not as competitive as the second game, Yelm was able to trail just behind the Cougars up until the end of the third game.
Sophomore mid-hitter Mya Phelps, McLaughlin and offensive hitter Kailin Lasher kept the pressure strong going into the third game. Phelps brought a sly blind block off a Capital spike to bring Yelm up 4-3 for a brief lead early in the third. But Capital kept up the pressure.
Reopelle said Sweet played an impressive game from the back. Not only did the senior lead Yelm with 15 digs against Capital, but she was also very vocal, something Reopelle admits hasn’t always been the case.
“They bring the ball hard and heavy, and she dug a ton of balls,” Reopelle said. “The leadership tonight. She’s a senior and she’s usually pretty quiet, but she started directing traffic back there tonight. I pulled her aside and I told her, ‘that was awesome.’”
And it was through that communication that Sweet also played an instrumental role in making sure her team stayed in rotation and in proper position, which Reopelle said was great to see.
Phelps led Yelm in kills, with a total of five. Reopelle said her development has been positive for the Tornados.
“Phelps played a great game for us in the middle. She’s only a sophomore, but she did a nice job tonight,” Reopelle said.
Carrier and McLaughlin also tallied three kills each. Fourre led Yelm with 13 assists.
Now at the halfway point in the season, Reopelle said the goal for his Tornados is to secure two more wins in the South Sound Conference this year to secure a playoff spot.
“They’re out there to be had. If we continue to compete, we might get our five wins and our spot in the playoffs,” Reopelle said.
With seven games left in the season, Reopelle said he expects some good ball from his girls against lower-ranked Shelton and Timberline later this month. But they’re also hoping to stay competitive against some tough talent coming soon, such as North Thurston and Peninsula.
The Tornados took this week off. They’ll face off against the North Thurston Rams (3-3) Tuesday, Oct. 15, away. The Tornados will then host the Shelton Highclimbers (0-7, 1-7) at home on Thursday, Oct. 17.