SVSJ preview: Mount Si volleyball aims for success, state trip in 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: We close out our volleyball preview this morning with a look at Mount Si High School’s program, as it seeks a return to glory at state this fall.

Mount Si High School’s volleyball program embarks on a new era this season, or perhaps it’s back to the future for this Wildcat crew.

Mount Si made the Kingco playoffs last season but failed to make state. This year, however, in head coach Bonnie Foote’s 19th season at the helm of the Wildcats, Mount Si perhaps has a better chance to make state than it has had since joining the 4A classification four years ago. And that is because the playoff format has changed a bit.

“I think that we’re going to be bigger and stronger this year. I think that we were pretty young in a lot of ways last year and I think that we have a lot more experience,” Foote said.

Leading the charge this fall is a four-senior group including top players Hayley West and Bellah Gogan, both of whom had integral roles last season and this spring in club play competed with a couple of the top clubs in USA Volleyball’s Puget Sound Region, Tacoma-based Puget Sound Volleyball Academy (West) and Seattle-based Seattle Juniors (Gogan). Also back are Sara Kaitlyn Mitchell and Kam Smith. Smith will be back following a season-ending knee injury she suffered early last season with the Wildcats and Mitchell will also help provide leadership for the squad this season.

The four seniors will have a big-name freshman helping things out this fall. Baily Showalter, who has some national credentials in her young volleyball resume, will join the program and Foote is excited about what Showalter can do. “She’s a six-rotation kid,” Foote said. “She’s very multi-dimensional. She can do every skill and she does them well, so we’re going to look to her a lot as an incoming freshman to help lead our offense and our passing and our serving and our defense.” She has been on the program’s radar all summer after having made a recent national tournament, so fans can look for a strong first season from this Wildcat freshman. Showalter’s older sister Linsay is a former player of Foote’s, having played a couple of seasons with Mount Si several years ago. She is currently attending college but is not playing volleyball at that level.

The league looks to be tough this year, with North Creek according to Foote being the team to watch. “I think we fare probably somewhere in the middle, maybe the upper middle,” she said, but, there’s something else to think about. “We’re really excited about the fact that there’s a district tournament now,” the coach said.

During the time Mount Si was part of Kingco 3A, which included the heyday run of this program from 2007 to 2012, in which the Wildcats made six straight state tournaments under Foote, the postseason consisted of a league tournament, a district tournament (against teams from Seattle’s Metro League in what is known as the SeaKing District Tournament) then state. The past four seasons have seen Kingco’s 4A tournament serve as the district tournament because of the conference being the only 4A league in SeaKing. However, this fall and next fall, athletic directors and principals from both the Kingco and the Northwest District’s Wesco Conference have agreed to combine the two districts’ state berths and hold a bi-district tournament that will run similar in format to the old SeaKing model. A total of five state berths are expected out of this event, with seven Kingco teams making the field.

“It was really frustrating for me as a coach coming in and not looking forward to a district tournament,” Foote said. She’s very supportive of the leagues deciding to do this bi-district event. “You’re going to battle in a double elimination tournament which is how it should be. That’s athletics. You don’t compete against your own teams in a league tournament to go to state,” the coach said.

Other teams to perhaps watch within Kingco this fall include Eastlake, Skyline, Issaquah and Newport, and with all teams facing each other once, all it likely will require for Mount Si to make districts is probably two or three league wins, which with this group should be attainable.

The program this fall, like its soccer brethren as we discussed on Sunday, enjoyed a high turnout – 52 girls according to Foote tried out, with 15 athletes being cut. The sport, like soccer, is also seeing growth, buoyed once again by a strong local club option for girls in the U-12 to U-14 age range in Ridge Valley, which Foote also has an association with and herself founded several years ago. But it has been a busy summer for the head coach, with her work coaching a U-12 team down in Kent which featured her daughter, Isabelle, who has been and will continue to be a significant presence at matches this fall, and several of her friends. As we told you earlier this year, Foote coached that team into the USA Volleyball Nationals tournament in Detroit this summer and will look to replicate that same success this fall with her high school crew.

Mount Si opens its season tonight with a preseason jamboree at Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle, getting a chance to see a potential Wesco district tournament challenger in Monroe along with old SeaKing district foe Blanchet among others, then hosts Kentwood next Tuesday to open the season. The Conquerors are a favorite foe of Foote’s as longtime friend Bill Caillier coaches Kentwood, and has for many years. He is a well-known figure in local girls’ volleyball, also involved as a club coach with the Kent-based Kent Juniors, who also sponsored Foote’s U-12 team this summer that as we just mentioned went to nationals.

The Braves come in next Thursday, then Mount Si opens league play at home September 25 with a biggie against Eastlake. A win there will speak volumes about their playoff chances. Home matches for Mount Si begin at 7:00 except for the season opener next Tuesday and Senior Night October 24, which both will begin at 7:15. Matches are best of five and can run as long as two hours. The contests will be at MSHS’s main gymnasium in downtown Snoqualmie.

Rhett Workman

About Rhett Workman

Rhett Workman is the editor of the Snoqualmie Valley Sports Journal. Workman is a veteran sports journalist, having covered Snoqualmie Valley sports for nearly a decade with the Snoqualmie Valley Record newspaper before starting up the SVSJ. Workman's coverage has earned the support and respect of Valley coaches, players, parents and fans, and the SVSJ continues the standard of coverage that Workman brought to the Valley Record.
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