High school volleyball: Unsung heroes help Columbia River and Ridgefield volleyball to state

Rapids and Spudders could face each other again this weekend in 2A tournament, while Camas looks to do some damage at the 4A tourney

The Class 2A Greater St. Helens League’s regular season. 

The 2A District 4 tournament.

And now off to the WIAA’s Class 2A state tournament.

Is this another collision course for Columbia River and Ridgefield volleyball?

And in Class 4A, Camas survived the bi-district tournament to advance to state, as well, earning a No. 5 seed in the process.

Back to 2A, Ridgefield and Columbia River have been the headlines in recent years in Clark County volleyball. And rightfully so. The Spudders have won the last two state championships that have been contested. The Rapids have earned trophies for placing in those tournaments. 

In order to be this good, those teams need their stars to shine, naturally. But they also need all players to step up, to excel.

For this preview, we celebrate a senior leader from Columbia River and an up-and-coming star for Ridgefield.

Aaliyah Turner is embracing her role as a team leader for Columbia River, on and off the court.

Columbia River volleyball teammates hold senior Aaliyah Turner prior to the team’s departure to Yakima for the Class 2A state tournament. Turner has been a go-to leader on and off the court for the Rapids this season. Photo by Paul Valencia
Columbia River volleyball teammates hold senior Aaliyah Turner prior to the team’s departure to Yakima for the Class 2A state tournament. Turner has been a go-to leader on and off the court for the Rapids this season. Photo by Paul Valencia

In competition, she is getting better and better, coach Breanne Smedley said. The team has so many offensive weapons that Turner does not get a whole lot of kills. But her presence is felt in so many other areas.

“She’s been a blocking machine the second half of the season. Super consistent,” Smedley said. “Just an awesome teammate. Super reliable.”

Being a quality teammate means as much to Turner as any statistic.

“I think it’s really inspiring to me that I was able to provide that for my team, especially after losing so many seniors last year,” she said. “I could step up into that role and create a safe space for my team.”

It was important for Turner to make sure that all of her teammates, all of the athletes in the program, especially the younger ones, had someone they could come to if needed.

“‘You can tell me anything.’ ‘You can talk to me.’ I’m here for every single one of them,” she said.

Turner is a vocal leader on the court, as well.

“Stay positive and keep the team together and keep us going up and up and up,” Turner said. “It’s cool because it’s kind of behind the scenes.”

The Rapids earned the state’s No. 1 seed by winning the Class 2A District 4 tournament and by winning two of three matches against Ridgefield this season. Of course, winning the state title is the ultimate goal. Along the way, Turner wants to see the Rapids stick to their philosophy.

“I just want us to play together and play all-out, going for everything,” Turner said. “No matter what happens, we’re always going to be there. We’ve created a little family here. I just want everybody to feel like they’ve gone all out and they’re proud of themselves, of their teammates, and we’re proud of our coaching staff, and everybody feels appreciated.”

Turner said it has been a dream to play for this program. She recalled watching Columbia River volleyball when she was in elementary and middle school.

“Everything they stand for here is absolutely amazing,” Turner said. “To be part of it, to be part of this legacy, I don’t even have words. It’s just been so great.”

Ridgefield’s recent past is historic, with back-to-back state titles. Ridgefield’s present remains strong as one of the best teams in the state and with a shot to make it three consecutive championships. And its future looks promising, as well.

“One of our sophomores is stepping it up quite a bit the last few weeks,” Ridgefield coach Sabrina Dobbs said of Elizabeth Andrew. “We’re utilizing her as much as we can because she is getting so much better.”

At 6-4, Andrew is easy to spot. But she is so much more than just tall, her coach said.

“She can play every position,” Dobbs said. “Back row. Front row. Fun kid to be around and super smart. Just a great teammate to be around.”

Going into state, the two-time champions understand the pressure and the atmosphere. The Spudders are not accustomed to losing. They had won more than 50 matches in a row before Columbia River topped them earlier this season.

“We’ve tried to humble ourselves quite a bit, learn from our losses that we’ve had this season,”  Dobbs said. 

In 4A volleyball, the Camas Papermakers had to beat Skyview in a loser-out, winner-to-state match last week in the bi-district. It was scary for the Papermakers when they lost the first set 25-9. But they won the next three to advance.

With their 18-1 record, the Papermakers earned the No. 5 seed at state. Coach Michelle Ford said the goal is to bring the championship home to Camas.

As far as an unsung hero of the team, Ford said in all honesty that every one of the Papermakers is flying under the radar this season. 

“This team is the most unique team I’ve ever had, just the sweetness, the hard work,” Ford said. “The support. The teamwork. The family dynamic. We’ve created this program. It’s about everybody, not just one person.”

The Papermakers beat Skyview in the 4A GSHL schedule 3-1 and then 3-2. In bi-district, with a trip to state on the line, the Storm took that first set.

“I was so impressed with their heart to come back and win the next three the way they did,” Ford said, noting that the team definitely took the hard way to get to state. “Just having them conquer that, that felt so good, to know they had that fire and that fight.”

It carried over into this week’s practices. Ford said this team is ready for battle at state.

State Volleyball

Yakima Valley SunDome

Class 2A

No. 3 Ridgefield vs. No. 14 Sequim, 7 a.m. Friday

No. 1 Columbia River vs. No. 16 Mark Morris, 8:45 a.m. Friday

Quarterfinals are tentatively scheduled for 4:15 p.m. Friday. Semifinals and Finals are Saturday.

Class 4A

No. 5 Camas vs. No. 12 North Creek, 10:45 a.m Friday

Quarterfinals are tentatively scheduled for 8:45 p.m. Friday. Semifinals and Finals are Saturday.

For more tournament information, go to: https://www.wiaa.com/subcontent.aspx?SecID=315

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