The situation was not new for Bellarmine Prep. After winning a district title last year, the Lions jumped out of the gates on the way to another district crown, sweeping past Tahoma 25-14, 25-10, 25-15 in their opener on Nov. 2 and showing they meant business once again. The Lions charged out to a 16-8 lead in the opening set, with Courtney Schwan and Claire Martin establishing dominance up front. Schwan’s powerful strikes were complemented the entire match by Reghan Pukis, Katherin Joyce and Emily Newberry, who helped the Lions gain a commanding 17-8 lead in the second set to gain control. Senior setter Katy DeGroot added a couple of late aces, and Martin and Pukis combined for a block to close out the second set. “One of our focuses was to work on our serving and passing so that we can control that part of the game,” said Bellarmine head coach Jody DeGroot. “That’s really what we needed to do, because everything else can fall into place.” Tied 9-9 in the third set, Schwan once again took over to help lead a 9-2 run that gave the Lions control, and they cruised from there. It would be the start of a successful weekend for the Lions.
After topping Kent-Meridian in three sets later in the evening, the Lions looked as if they would cruise against Union as well in the semifinals. But the Titans came back from a two-set deficit to send the match to a deciding fifth set, which the Lions ultimately won 15-7. Bellarmine then dominated Camas 25-13, 25-17, 25-20 in the finals, giving them the top seed to the state playoffs once again. With a roster brimming with experience and talented youth, the Lions have shown the depth to make a serious run at a state title. “I think it’s really good for (the young players) to see the kids who have been here before just take one point at a time, one opponent at a time and take care of business,” Jody DeGroot said. Schwan led the Lions in the district tournament with 86 kills in the four matches while adding 44 digs and 15 aces. Pukis had 24 kills while Joyce added 20 kills throughout the tournament, and Julia Wright tallied a team-high 46 digs and Kelsie May added 43 digs for the Lions. Bellarmine Prep takes on Lake Stevens on Nov. 9 at 1:30 p.m. in their state opener in Lacey.