Junior outside hitters Avery Patterson (13) and Abby Harrell (10), junior middle blocker Parker Lyyski (5) and the Bulldogs punched their WIAA Volleyball Class 2A State Championships ticket with a Central Washington Athletic Conference Tournament consolation sweep of Prosser Saturday in Ephrata.

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The Bulldogs are in and ready for the Class WIAA Volleyball Class 2A State Championships.

The Ellensburg High School volleyball team (14-4 overall) will begin its 18th state trip since 1979 with a first-rounder against White River (15-5) scheduled for 7 a.m. Friday at the Yakima Valley SunDome.

“We watched them a little at the Burlington tournament but have not played them,” Bulldogs coach Jesse Stueckle said. “What we know is that they are a well-coached team who have a history of competing at the state tournament. They play solid in all phases of the game and will force teams to earn the points they score. The deserve their spot at state and we look forward to the next challenge.”

Ellensburg seeks its first state championship after reaching third in Class 2A in 2018 and becoming runners-up to Ridgefield in 2019.

The Hornets, also in search of their first state title, swept Fife in the South Puget Sound League consolation semifinals Saturday at Sammamish High in Bellevue for their 24th state ticket since 1975.

In the meantime, Central Washington Athletic Conference Tournament championship game host Ephrata (17-2) snapped the Bulldogs’ 10-game sweep streak in 3-2 (28-26, 27-29, 24-26, 25-21, 9-15) fashion Saturday, but Ellensburg qualified for state with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-12) sweep of Prosser (6-12) that evening for its 13th straight-set win.

“Congratulations to Ephrata for grinding out a hard-fought battle,” Stueckle said. “Our girls were focused and resilient, and I love how we came together and fought after our leading hitter went down with an ankle injury in the final points of the second set. While we would ultimately lose that set in a narrow fashion, they continued to fight back in set three and won the fourth set to push the match to a decisive fifth.”

Abby Harrell persisted despite her ailment for 13 kills, 15 digs, eight perfect passes and a pair of aces.

Lilly Button dealt 23 assists, 19 digs and three aces, Kacey Mayo served 19 assists and 14 digs, Leah Drexler hustled for 24 digs and 10 perfect passes, and Reaghan Naboychik landed 18 kills with 10 digs.

“Reaghan stepped up in a big way to record season-high marks for attempts and kills,” Stueckle said. “All of our other hitters had to spread the load as well. While Abby returned in the third set, she played through significant pain and fought to keep us in it.”

Alana Marrs went up for eight kills and four blocks, Parker Lyyski launched five kills with 14 digs, Kendall Steele defended with 11 digs and Leah Lewis notched three kills and five digs as the Bulldogs hit .078 for 47 kills on 179 attempts.

“The loss was difficult and the emotions raw, but the team met in the locker room and we were determined to not let this game be the end,” Stueckle said.

In the beatdown of Prosser, Harrell led with eight kills, 13 digs and two aces, Naboychik came down with 13 kills, three digs, two aces, Lilly Button kept the offense running with 15 assists, nine digs and two aces, and Leah Drexler swooped for 12 digs and seven perfect passes.

“This was an emotionally difficult game,” Stueckle said. “After the loss in the championship game, we had to wait and watch for our opponent. The team responded well and maintained the course: Abby fought through the pain and continued to show the type of grit and determination that makes her a tremendous player. Reaghan once again helped anchor the offense from the right side and our setters spread the ball around more than any other game this season.”

Kacey Mayo beat the defense for eight assists and four digs, Kendall Steele cleaned the floor for seven digs and four aces, Alana Marrs spiked the Mustangs four times and blocked two shots, and Parker Lyyski put in three kills and two blocks as Ellensburg hit .167 for 31 kills in 90 tries.

“We had to distribute the load around the net, and I’m so proud how other players stepped up to lead and carry the team at times,” Stueckle said. “Our middles (Parker and Alana) had a great game disrupting their attack and forcing tough shots. We served aggressively and continued to put pressure on Prosser’s serve-receive. It was a great team victory, and we are excited about the opportunity to return to state.”

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