Ending a 20-year state volleyball tournament drought may serve as a motivator, but the Kentridge girls refuse to get ahead of themselves.
Coach Eric Han makes sure of that.
“I’m very short-sighted when it comes to coaching. I like to take it one practice and one game at a time,” Han said following the Chargers’ hard-earned, home-court sweep of Kentlake on Thursday night, Oct. 11. “The girls like to talk about state … but we have to worry about this next match first, we have to worry about this practice first.
“I never go into a season, saying, ‘Yes, state’s it. We’re going to state.’ It’s got to be the practice and the match first.”
So far, so good for a team well balanced with athleticism, power and on-court smarts.
Pushed to the brink, the Chargers shifted into a higher gear to put away the Falcons in three games – 25-18, 25-23, 25-22 – stretching their unbeaten season to 13 matches, with three foes left in the pursuit of the North Puget Sound League Cascade Division title.
Kentridge, ranked third in 4A state by MaxPreps, took another important step when it swept Kennedy Catholic at Burien on Monday. Both teams entered the match 4-0 in division play.
“We have not reached our potential, but we will get there,” said Kate Wick, a 6-foot-1 senior outside hitter who has committed to Western Washington University. “The more we play, the more touches we get, the more we mend as a team, the better we get. Today wasn’t our best game. It didn’t happen.
“We had points this season where we were at our best,” said Wick, a four-year varsity player. “This team is going far.”
For Han, who is in his fourth season at the helm, it’s been a great ride, having seen the results of hard work. Players and coaches continue to put in the time, which includes offseason club ball and familiarity – all designed to get stronger, quicker and all-around better.
Han comes from the school of one of his mentors, Auburn Riverside’s Chris Leverenz, a champion-caliber coach who taught him the basics. From humble beginnings, serving as a student manager for the Ravens, Han grew as a coach. Foremost a club player and coach, Han spent four years as a junior varsity coach at Rogers High School and one year with Stadium High School before the coaching position at Kentridge opened.
“It was a good opportunity for me to just go up, grab it and take it and run with it,” he said of the job.
The Chargers incrementally became competitive behind Han’s attention to detail.
“I don’t think we go into a match unprepared, no matter what team it is,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if they had a loss or undefeated season, we game-plan prepare. … It doesn’t matter who it is, it’s preparing for the next match.”
Last season, Kentridge went 15-9, going deep in the district playoffs before Kennedy Catholic denied the Chargers a state berth, the No. 7 spot, on final-match night.
That loss still stings.
“Our vision is state every single year. We haven’t made it. We’ve been close,” said Austin Ibale, the Chargers’ 5-10 senior setter, who is scholarship bound to Seattle Pacific University. “This is really our year to use it as a goal and come forth.
“I see so much potential,” said Ibale, a four-year varsity player. “Each year we get stronger as we continue playing. … We have ups and downs, but I see so much in this team.”
Against Kentlake, the Chargers found a way to pull away late in each game. Experience in tight times comes in handy.
“There’s definitely a sense of urgency that comes out of this team when we need it,” Wick said. “When we’re all playing hard, we all just click. It’s a whole other level. It’s amazing to be a part of.”
Wick finished with seven kills and six digs in the win against Kentlake. Ibale had 14 assists and 10 digs. Zaiah Calvin finished with 12 kills and four digs, with Desiree Tunu (nine digs), Emilia Seaman (14 assists, eight digs) and Madeline Gooding (six, two blocks) contributed to the win.
Against Kennedy, Wick delivered 11 kills and five digs, Calvin had 10 kills and 12 digs, Ibale produced 16 assists and 13 digs, and Seaman posted five kills, 13 assists and seven digs.
“(We have) a lot of tangibles that a lot of coaches wish they had on their team,” Han said. “It’s communication. They know how to talk to their teammates correctly, with passion and urgency.”