The Ridgefield Spudders sizzled on the volleyball court in 2017.
After defeating Tumwater and Black Hills in five sets to become district champions, Ridgefield swept Sehome and Washington in the first two rounds of the 2A state tournament, lost to runner-up Lyden in the semifinals and then beat White River in four sets to finish in third place.
“A lot of people doubted us at the beginning of the season. We had a really young team,” said senior middle blocker Kamryn Reynolds. “Getting third at state was really exciting. I think we all just played well as a team and that’s what got us there.”
Although Reynolds is the only senior back in the varsity lineup, head coach Sabrina Dobbs is confident in having Reynolds, junior specialist Delaney Nicoll and sophomore setter Kohanna Fukuchi lead the team as captains. Dobbs believes these three girls add a variety of spices to the Spudder attack, along with returning juniors Bailey Norris and Mackenzie Sparks, and sophomores Presley McCaskill and Emilea Stepaniuk.
“The potential these girls have is amazing. They have all aspects of the volleyball game. We’ve got great passers, great defense, setters are amazing and we have awesome, awesome hitters. We also have super tall kids,” Dobbs said. “I think that we will come out stronger and confident this season, but I know that our competition is going to be harder than it was last year.”
Dobbs begins her ninth year as head coach at Ridgefield. She had a little something special to say about each captain. She describes Reynolds as an inspirational leader who brings a lot of experience to the team. Nicolli is one of the tallest girls on the team who has the ability to set the ball up for her teammates or hammer it down on the opposition.
“The girls respect her, just by watching in awe,” the coach said.
And then there’s Fukuchi, who Dobbs refers to as her volleyball spirit animal.
“Her wisdom of volleyball and the way that she spiritually lifts the girls up is a good aspect for us to have,” Dobbs said.
Ridgefield should be challenged in league by Columbia River, Hockinson, Washougal and Woodland. The Beavers beat the Spudders twice last season and became league champions, but then lost to Washougal in the district tournament and failed to reach state.
“This year, we are going to be focusing on game by game and moving forward after every match,” Dobbs said. “Not focusing on getting back to state; we want to focus on every match and how are we going to get better and learn from everyone that we’re playing.”
Reynolds, Nicolli and Fukuchi looks forward to unifying the team every single day.
“Having open arms and making sure that they know that we’re returning varsity, but you girls are varsity now. We’re all varsity. We’re all the same. We all matter,” Fukuchi said.
These girls can’t wait for the games to begin. Their advice to the younger players is to live in the moment.
“It just stems from wanting to do the best that you possibly can and putting it all out on the court, and when you do that the crowd is always there for you. They’re always cheering,” Nicolli said.
“Never hold back,” Fukuchi adds. “You’re going to get butterflies your first game. You’re going to get goosebumps. You always will. Just enjoy every second of it.”
“It goes by quick,” Reynolds advises. “Every minute, just give it your all and you won’t regret it.”