SPORTS: Sequim beats Port Angeles 3-0 in key volleyball match; both teams tied for second in league

PORT ANGELES — A single tear welled up in Christine Halberg’s right eye as she tried to find the right words.

It was the same pained expression that was plastered all over her Port Angeles volleyball team following Tuesday night’s Olympic League showdown with archrival Sequim.

After losing once again to the Wolves, this time in three games, 25-16, 25-14, 25-19, the Riders’ head coach couldn’t hide the disappointment.

“This team had worked so hard all year, for some of them two or three years,” said Halberg, still winless against the Wolves in her third year at Port Angeles.

“For them not to come out and play like I know they can play, it hurts.”

The Sequim Wolves (5-1 in league, 8-3 overall) kept the pressure on the Riders all night.

Behind an aggressive service game, pin-point passing and powerful play at the net, Sequim handed Port Angeles (5-1, 8-4) its first Olympic League loss of the season.

Sophomore setter Taylor Balkan (23 assists) spread the ball out to authoritative hitters Haleigh Harrison (11 kills), Jessica Lauritzen (five kills), Kyla Martin (five kills) and Maddy Zbaraschuk (four kills).

Outstanding serving

And Rylleigh Zbaraschuk, Maddy Zbaraschuk and Lauritzen added three aces apiece as the hard-hitting Wolves did what they always seem to do against the Riders.

Namely, they found a way to win.

“When it’s this game, we always seem to work harder and want to beat them so bad,” said Harrison, who added eight digs, four blocks and two assists in the winning effort.

“We really worked like a team. We were all in sync, and we were all very intense. We just had this spirit.

“I mean, it’s PA against Sequim. It’s like the game of the year to us.”

In a game packed with emotion on both sides, it was the Wolves who harnessed it the best.

After going down 5-2 in the first game of the match, Sequim responded with a 5-1 run on Lauritzen’s serve (12-for-12) to take a 7-6 edge.

Never looking back

The Wolves never trailed in another game again, repeatedly rattling off four- and five-point runs without ceding any momentum.

The defense of Balkan (14 digs), Rylleigh Zbaraschuk (14 digs) and Martin (nine digs) had something to do with that.

So, too, did Port Angeles’ numerous unforced errors.

“They were out of whack tonight,” Sequim coach Jennie Webber-Heilman said of the Riders, who lost 3-2 at Sequim earlier this fall.

“I came and watched them play Olympic [a 3-1 Rider win], and they played better than that. This is the best team they’ve had in quite a while.”

Indeed, Port Angeles was often its own worst enemy Tuesday night.

Be it on serve or at the net, the Riders simply couldn’t channel the same consistency that vaulted them near the top of the league standings this fall.

“It’s just something that they want so bad, that it’s hard for them to function,” Halberg said.

“They’re too tight, too tense.

“We talked a lot about treating it as a normal game. It doesn’t matter, it’s Sequim on the other side. It’s hard to do.

“We were going up, swinging and completely missing the ball. I mean, that doesn’t happen. I think they were too tense. They wanted it too much.”

Whatever chance the Riders may have had at a comeback in the third game was put to rest by a 10-0 run on Maddy Zbaraschuk’s serve that included two aces, three Harrison kills and three Rider errors.

By that time, the score was 13-2, and the Wolves were well on their way to their second straight win following a shocking 3-0 loss to North Kitsap last week.

That puts them in a two-way tie with Port Angeles for second in league, although the Wolves now hold the head-to-head tie-breaker.

“It was a good learning experience [losing to North Kitsap],” Harrison said. “We were confident going in, but when we came out we had a new attitude.”

Chloe Johnston led the Riders with 15 digs and two aces. Darian Foley added three blocks.

But it wasn’t enough to help the Riders maintain their stranglehold on second place in league.

Port Angeles will get its own shot at those same North Kitsap Vikings next week.

With a win there, as well as at Kingston on Thursday, the Riders can still earn a top-two spot heading into the district tournament.

“We still can take North Kitsap,” Halberg said. “That’s not out of the question. And we will play better that game knowing that it’s just North Kitsap [and not Sequim].”

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