The Lady Pirates have had a fantastic season culminating in four straight wins at the 2A state volleyball championships to defend their state title and win back-to-back state championships.
In the first match at Lakeview High School in Rathdrum on Oct. 29, West Side faced Declo, a team they beat earlier in the season. The Pirates started off strong winning the first set 25-18, but allowed the Hornets to tie it up 1-1 in the second with a 25-27, hard-fought loss. The third and fourth sets were all West Side. They came alive to take both sets 25-13, and advance to the next round.
Against Cole Valley in match 7, the Lady Pirates allowed their opponents too many opportunities at the end of the first set and lost 18-25. They regrouped and went on to win three straight sets 25-17, 25-12 and 25-17 for a 3-1 win. West Side neutralized the Chargers’ main hitter and dug everything the team threw at them, keeping the ball alive. Some were breathtakingly close for West Side fans.
Following the first day of play, Coach MeLinda Royer praised her team. “So proud of these girls! We served tough, played great defense, and worked as a team! Looking forward to playing in the semifinals tomorrow morning.”
She also praised Natalie Lemmon and Abby Fuller who stepped up their game, taking some of the pressure off Jessie Mariscal.
Day two started against Nampa Christian in the semifinals match 12. Again, West Side lost the first set (19-25) but they were not phased. They came back to win the next three sets 25-15, 25-13 and 25-19 and advanced to the championship round.
A fired-up Pirate team didn’t give Melba the chance to put their title in doubt. They swept the Mustangs in three: 25-22, 25-16 and 25-11 and retained their state champions status.
Coach Royer felt defense was the reason for their success. “After going four sets with everybody else in the tournament and we wait for the state championship match to win in three. It was a good time for them to come on. Our key was defense. We knew they played a shallow defense and they tipped a lot, so we adjusted our defense. We pulled our opposite right side players off the net to watch for the tip, and then every chance we could not hit the ball we tried to push it as deep as we could, and it worked.”
“You know it’s such a team sport. You have to give credit to them all,” she said when asked about the game. “They did such an amazing job. Laney (Beckstead) was sick, so for her to come out and set like she did and play all day the way she has, it was phenomenal. The setter sets our tone and she carried us there. Obviously, you’ve got Jesse and Abby and Natalie that just took it to them on hitting and consistency. On the back row, with Sammi (Roberts) and Madalyn, they just played so well. Our defense that we had, the balls they were digging here on this side with Jesse and Abby and Maddi right there in the middle was unreal. They picked a good game to play the best game of the whole season.”
West Side finishes the season with 35 wins and 4 losses including the following- 2nd place at the Cokeville tournament (16 team tournament), 1st place at the West Jefferson tournament (12 team tournament), 1st place at the Malad tournament (8 team tournament), District Champions and State Champions.
Senior Jessie Mariscal was on last season’s championship team with her older sister and was thrilled to be there again.
“Oh, it feels so amazing. I can’t even believe it happened,” she said. “I’ve been looking forward to it. At the beginning of the season I really wanted to have it and I’m so glad we finally did it.”
She played this season with her younger sister, Sara, and said, “Next year there could be a times three state champion — that would be amazing.”
Libero Madalyn Barzee made some spectacular saves during the match and in the tournament as a whole and was also part of last year’s team.
“It is awesome!” she said when asked about winning back-to-back titles. “All the football players were telling us we had to do it, since they did.”
Of her role as libero, Barzee said “once we get a good save then we can get a really good hit off it and that makes a point, so it was awesome. We kind of got behind a little bit the first set and I was just a little bit worried, but then after that, we started picking it up. Once we get our game it’s hard to stop us,”
Barzee felt the closeness of the team gave them the edge.
“I feel like our teamness — being together — made it happen because we are all so close and do so many things together that we trust each other and there’s like no doubt if this person is going to get the ball or if this person is going to set it or anything. I love how we came together and meshed together even more.”
Coach Royer is sad to see her seniors go but what a way to send them off. She has no doubt the younger players will step up and fill their shoes.
“I am most proud of my seniors,” Coach Royer said. “They have learned to be leaders and led the team in multiple ways. The seniors this year were Marissa Clawson, Jesse Mariscal, Madalyn Barzee, and Brittyn Jensen. They stayed focused and also brought a lot of laughs and fun to every practice, game, tournament, and team bonding experience. Throughout the season we really focused on serving and passing because that is what wins games. We knew that we needed to be able to serve tough! By the end of the season we were serving with 95% accuracy. I am proud of my younger classmen as well. Each girl filled a unique and vital role on the team. These girls love each other and are the classy group of volleyball players in the State! I am beyond proud of them and feel lucky to be their coach.”