Ferndale team

Ferndale celebrates following their victory over Meadowdale during the District 1 tournament. The Golden Eagles secured a spot in the 3A state semifinals after sweeping No. 11 Arlington on Thursday night. (Connor J. Benintendi/Lynden Tribune)

Golden Eagles sweep both opponents on day 1 of the 3A state tournament, one win away from state championship

YAKIMA – It’s becoming routine for this Ferndale team.

Leading by a small margin? Trailing by a couple? Ahead by a lot? Win the set. It’s as simple as that; it at least seems to be.

After two straight sweeps on Thursday, Nov. 18, the Golden Eagles show no signs of slowing down. Neither of the two matches they played were blowouts. They somehow find ways to win close sets no matter the circumstance.

Let’s just say this: They know when to turn it on. That’s what this Ferndale team has done all season.

Following their two wins on Thursday, the Golden Eagles advanced to the 3A state semifinals on Friday, Nov. 19, in which they will face No. 2 Peninsula. It will be by far their toughest opponent of the tournament and likely, of the season.

They will take the court at 2:15 p.m. for a chance to advance to the 3A state championship.

Round of 16:

No. 3 Ferndale vs. No. 19 Bainbridge

Entering the 3A state tournament as a top-four seed has its benefits.

While the tournament began with play-ins at 9:45 a.m., and lower-seeded first-round matches starting at 11:45 a.m., the Golden Eagles didn’t have to step on the court until 1:30 p.m.

When they finally did, they found themselves across from No. 19 Bainbridge who was coming off an upset victory over No. 14 Walla Walla.

It was an impressive showing from the Golden Eagles who smoothly ran their offense and were as effective as ever digging tough attacks from the opposition. 

Bainbridge also had a solid defense, although eventually, Ferndale’s hitters began converting kills too consistently for their offense to keep up with.

However, the match was still quite a bit closer than the 3-0 final would show (25-17, 25-20, 25-22).

Ferndale didn’t finish any sets with a blowout victory, though they did hit the gas at just the right time in each. Bainbridge held leads, but none stood for very long.

The first set was the only game of the three that didn’t quite match that blueprint. Ferndale seized an early lead and never surrendered it.

Bainbridge led the majority of the second set. They were making all the right plays to earn a 10-6 advantage early. 

For a moment, it looked like we would need at least four sets to determine a match victor.

Then, while trailing 15-13, the Golden Eagles clawed back in it. A 12-5 run to close out the set had Ferndale looking like themselves again, and it was 2-0.

The third game is where all the drama began. Leading 10-7 early, Bainbridge rumbled back to take a 14-12 advantage. Each team went point-for-point with one another until Ferndale roared back to life once again.

A 7-2 run gave the Golden Eagles a 22-20 lead late, and it was all but over from there — they closed it out by three off a match-sealing kill by senior outside hitter Kaelee Bungard.

Bungard finished with 16 kills, while fellow senior outside hitter Alyvia Semu had 10 to go along with 2 aces and a block. Senior middle blocker Avery Schneider had 9 kills and a block.

Junior setter Brooklyn Cagle totaled 25 assists, 2 kills and 2 aces.

3A State Quarterfinals:

No. 3 Ferndale vs. No. 11 Arlington

Arlington was not your typical No. 11 seed. Similar to Ferndale’s previous match against No. 19 Bainbridge, the sweep was misleading.

The Golden Eagles swept Arlington (25-19, 25-22, 25-22) to advance to the semifinal match against No. 2 Peninsula.

It was a battle through and through. Ferndale was able to persevere through the rough stretches to close out each set, regardless of the pressure put on by Arlington.

You can look at these results in two ways: The Golden Eagles aren’t as good as their No. 3 seed shows given their close sets with lower-seeded teams in back-to-back matches, or they come up big with their backs against the wall and continue to prove their legitimacy as a top team in the state.

If you are thinking of the former, you haven’t watched enough Ferndale volleyball. For those in the line of thinking with the latter, you couldn’t be more correct.

At the end of the day, all these teams are in the state tournament for a reason. 

Despite trading leads with Arlington in the first, the Golden Eagles were able to pull out their largest victory of the match by six.

It was the final two sets that were a bit more questionable.

Leading 9-6 early in the second, Ferndale saw their lead dwindle until they trailed 20-18 late. Three straight aces by Golden Eagles junior defensive specialist Aysia Mitchell gave them a 21-20 lead once again.

That would be all the momentum Ferndale needed, as they cruised into a 25-22 set victory to go up 2-0.

Even though Ferndale led for most of the third set, Arlington hung around. The Golden Eagles had a 10-7 lead early and held just a 17-15 advantage late. 

They thought they had squashed any comeback attempt by Arlington. However, the opposition continued to rally to make it 22-20 at the very end. 

A 3-2 run by Ferndale closed it out, and that was it.

Semu had a team-high 15 kills, 6 digs and 3 blocks for the Golden Eagles as Schneider followed that up with 10 kills, 2 digs and 3 blocks.

Bungard totaled 7 kills and 10 digs. Cagle continued to stuff the stat sheet with 27 assists, 4 kills, 3 digs and 1 block while Mitchell tallied 12 digs and 5 aces.

Ferndale will play No. 2 Peninsula in the 3A state semifinals at 2:15 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 19.