Team chemistry just about perfect for La Center’s near-perfect volleyball team



Senior captains talk about the special season they have had with the Wildcats

The La Center Wildcats got a send-off from the school and their community Thursday morning as they headed to Yakima for the Class 1A state volleyball tournament, which starts Friday at the Yakima Valley SunDome.

The La Center volleyball team is seeded third in the Class 1A state tournament, which starts Friday in Yakima. Photo by Paul Valencia
The La Center volleyball team is seeded third in the Class 1A state tournament, which starts Friday in Yakima. Photo by Paul Valencia

Meanwhile, the girls soccer tournaments have concluded their opening rounds. The defending Class 4A champions advanced with a win on Tuesday, and the three Class 2A Greater St. Helens League teams all won on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals. In fact, the Hockinson Hawks made some state history in the process. More on that below.

Thursday morning, a small town’s love for its high school was on display as boosters from La Center lined up downtown to wave to the volleyball team on its way to Yakima for the state tournament. A few minutes earlier, the volleyball team was given a send-off from the school as students lined the hallway to cheer on the Wildcats.

Fans of the La Center High School volleyball team lined the streets Thursday morning to cheer on the Wildcats on their way to the Class 1A state tournament in Yakima. Photo by Paul Valencia
Fans of the La Center High School volleyball team lined the streets Thursday morning to cheer on the Wildcats on their way to the Class 1A state tournament in Yakima. Photo by Paul Valencia

La Center is 19-1 this season, with an 18-match winning streak. The team is seeded third at state and will play in the opening round at 3:15 p.m. Friday against Eastside Prep.

“I’ve never been on a team that works so well together,” said Alyse Webberley, one of three senior captains. “It just makes it so much more fun because you look forward to practices and games because you know you’re going to spend more time with your friends.”

That friendship is so much more than results on the scoreboard. 

“It makes it really special being our last time playing high school as a team,” added senior captain Ella Schoene.

Yes, the Wildcats could go 4-0 and win a state championship this week. Or they can go 0-2. Or somewhere in between, maybe bring home a trophy for placing at state. 

The only certainty is the season will be over by Saturday night, and these seniors will be saying goodbye to high school volleyball.

“I’ve been trying not to think about it because that’s very sad for me,” said senior captain Grace Clinton. “I’m probably not going to go on to play volleyball after this so this is really my last time on a team.”

She added, however, that these are the perfect girls to be with at the end of her volleyball career, her volleyball family.

Webberley can relate. She, too, said she is unlikely to play college volleyball.

“I’m so glad to finish it out with such a great team and be surrounded by the best people I could ask for,” Webberley said. “Now that it’s here, it is sad, but I’m also just really grateful for the people.”

Schoene does not know where she will be playing next year but she does plan to play volleyball in college. High school volleyball is an important chapter in her life, but that chapter is about to conclude.

“I just want to end it with a win and go out as champions,’ Schoene said.

That has been the mindset all season. Especially after a five-set loss to Kalama in the second match of the year.

“We hadn’t quite figured out our dynamic yet. That’s one of the reasons why we struggled a little bit in that game,” Clinton said. “It really was a turning point. We are a great team, but there are some challenges we are going to go up against. It lit a fire underneath all of us. We can overcome this.”

Oh yes, they added, Kalama is a great team, too. In fact, Kalama earned the No. 1 seed to the Class 2B state tournament.

La Center, with only the three seniors on the roster, has not lost since that Kalama match, too.

“We are such a young team, it was honestly beneficial for us,” Schoene said. “To show these young players the feeling of playing a tough game, of having the pressure, and losing, to know we don’t want to feel like that again. It was inspirational.”

La Center coach Cymany O’Brien said something clicked that night, too.

“Right after that match against Kalama, I asked, ‘What do you want?’ They were, ‘We want to win a state championship.’ It’s going to take sacrifice,” O’Brien said.

Saturday practices. Conditioning. Very few days off. Long tournament days.

“They did not complain,” O’Brien said.

Their reward? On Thursday, the high school and the city of La Center wished the Wildcats the best on their way to the state tournament. 

State soccer update

This is only the second year that state soccer tournaments have been seeded by the WIAA, but there is a first time for everything, right?

The Hockinson Hawks, seeded 16, took down No. 1 Fife on Thursday night with a 2-1 victory. It is the first time a No. 1 seed at any classification in girls soccer has fallen in the first round. 

Oh, and WIAA rules call for the bracket to determine the home field for the next match, not the seed. So by beating No. 1, Hockinson takes that position in the bracket and will have a home match, or at least a match in Clark County, in the second round, likely on Saturday. (Time and place to be determined.) Hockinson will take on No. 9 Enumclaw.

Also on Wednesday, Columbia River, the 6-seed, got past No. 11 Bellingham 1-0 to advance to the quarterfinals. The Rapids will be on the road to face No. 3 West Valley of Spokane in the quarterfinals. And No. 12 Ridgefield recorded a 3-1 victory over No. 5 East Valley of Yakima. The Spudders will travel to face No. 4 Sehome in the quarterfinals.

Last year, Hockinson, Ridgefield, and Columbia River all made the final four. The three teams accomplished the same feat in 2019. 

In Class 4A soccer, the defending state champion Camas Papermakers prevailed on Tuesday. The No. 2 seed this year, the Papermakers will host Issaquah at 4 p.m. Saturday at Doc Harris Stadium in the quarterfinals.


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