LEWISTON — The Lighthouse Christian volleyball team is not accustomed to second place at the 1A Division II state tournament. Third place is foreign.
That changed on Saturday, when Butte County denied the Lions a chance to defend their title.
Lighthouse (22-2) beat Salmon River but lost to Butte County on Saturday at Lewiston High School. The win vaulted the Pirates into their second straight title game, and it left the Lions with a third-place trophy.
“It was very hard for our seniors,” Lighthouse coach Tobie Helman said over the phone. “For two of them, they’ve been in three championship games. To them, I think not being in the championship game felt like a failure.”
Saturday marked the worst state finish for the Lions since 2011, when they settled for the consolation trophy. That year, the state setup did not allow a team to lose a match and still win the title. When Lighthouse lost in five sets to Mackay in the opening round, its title hopes died.
The brackets changed a year later to allow teams to lose once but still compete for the title. Lighthouse went undefeated and beat Mackay for the title.
The Lions won the 1A-DII title again in 2013 and 2014. North Side Conference foe Richfield upended them in the 2015 title match, but they rebounded last season with a championship win over Butte County.
After a tournament-opening win on Friday, Lighthouse lost to Watersprings in four sets. It then won two straight loser-out matches, including a 15-25, 25-19, 25-9, 25-16 victory over Salmon River on Saturday morning. That set up a showdown with Butte County.
The Lions won the second and third sets to take a 2-1 lead, but Helman said her players got tired, and the Pirates didn’t. Butte County won 25-20, 22-25, 21-25, 25-16, 15-8, thanks in large part to the play of middle blocker Meg Buxton, Helman said.
“We had a great shot at it. But in the end, their team played amazing defense,” Helman said. “They’ve played so much volleyball. We kept expecting them to get tired, and they never did.”
Against Salmon River, senior Haylee Grossman had 14 kills, 18 digs and five blocks, junior Gracie Cover had 13 kills and 13 digs, senior Chloe Gomez had nine kills, five aces and 11 digs, sophomore Maycee Holloway had 15 digs and senior Sabrina De Jong had 33 assists and 14 digs.
Against Butte County, Grossman boomed 22 kills and added seven digs, Cover had nine kills and eight digs, De Jong had six kills, 36 assists and 17 digs, Gomez had five kills and 21 digs and Holloway had six kills and 13 digs.
“Hats off to them,” Helman said of Butte County, which lost to Watersprings in a five-set title match. “ We were running out of energy, and they were not.”