Lady T-Birds championship bound

By Bryce Fecarotta - Staff Reporter

The Highline Women's volleyball team's journey to the NWAC Championship Tournament has been a steep climb after a weak start in league play. But impressive improvement has landed the team a No. 2 seed in the tournament. 

Their chance to show off some of that improvement fell flat against a powerful Pierce team that will be joining Highline in the playoffs. 

Pierce played hard and won in three sets, 20-25, 23-25, 15-25. It wasn't characteristic of the recent fire the Thunderbirds have showed this past month. 

"We've done a lot of hard work the last month and a half and have played really well, and tonight wasn't our best match, but hopefully we picked up a couple things from it," said Head Coach Chris Littleman. 

While the loss wasn't the best precursor to the Thunderbird's first tournament game against the familiar 31-6 Clark, the consensus of the couch and a couple of key players is that they are prepared for this first game. 

They ran into Clark early in the preseason, and it didn't end well. Clark won the best of three match, 25-21, 21-25, 16-18.

Sophomore Lindsey Nein claims this is not an issue for the Thunderbirds.

"A lot of the teams that we saw in preseason playing are not going to know what to expect. We are a competitor for the NWAC championship," Nein said. 

This should be a great opportunity for Highline to prove its improvement from the preseason to now. 

"Once you get to the tournament, anybody can beat anybody, it's when it really matters," Coach Littleman said. "We played Clark earlier in the year when we were getting things going, made some silly errors and they were just a little more ready at that time." 

Clark won't be the Thunderbird's only challenge if the Thunderbirds want the NWAC championship.

The players and coaches say that Highline has the fight and will to beat any team out in the tournament, but consistency is key. 

"We need to work on consistency with talking, but we need to be able to talk through the entire game and stay pumped the entire game, not just when we get a kill or when we're kinda ahead" Nein said. 

Littleman agreed to this sentiment. "This team is pretty hungry, we can beat anybody, or lose to anybody. We're used to teams in the past who were really successful but when they faced adversity they didn't know how to fight back, this team has faced a lot of adversity and know how to fight back. It's up for grabs this year between six or seven teams," he said.   

Around the league, coaches weighed in on who they believed are the favorites and underdogs. 

The coach of conference rival Lower Columbia said he believes Chemeketa and North Idaho are the favorites to win it all, and Columbia Basin could be the surprise team this tournament. 

Lower Columbia plays the 31-8 Linn-Benton for its first game. 

"A total belief it is possible [to win it all]. A superior serve, receive and team defense. Evenly distributed offense where a handful of hitters make themselves a threat," said Lower Columbia Head Coach Carri Smith in regard to them winning the championship. 

Pierce's head coach and Western Region's Coach of the Year Greg Finel said he believes Columbia Basin is a strong team that could go far in the tournament. He also said that his team could very well be the surprise team of this tournament. 

Finel said he believes that they could be the surprise team because "it's really not going to be the best team that wins.  I believe it will be the best team 'that day' that will win.  We have to continue to put in the prep work and focus on winning in practice."

After the tournament is over, there will also be an all-star game. Highline's Zoe Gaines was named the Western region MVP, and Mahie Kaawa was placed as a first team setter, and Adrienne Haggerty made the second team all-stars. 

Teammate Lindsey Nein spoke highly of the improvement from  Kaawa this season.

"Our setter [Kaawa] wasn't always a setter, she came in as a defensive specialist and our coach turned her into a setter, and she's gotten so much better, amazing hands, she can get to balls and make great sets off of crazy plays," Nein said.  

Kaawa gives credit to her coaches for helping her change positions and get better this season.  

"The transition from a defensive specialist to a setter wasn't so bad. In high school I played all positions because of my height," said Kawaa, "I am proud and humble to make first team in my first full season of college." 

She also gave credit to her coaches, saying "My coaches of course, Chris and Russell, were some of the biggest helps in making this transition, because they were the ones who put me as a setter and they also made me better." 

Zoe Gaines' improvement towards becoming the West Region MVP has been observed by teammate and fellow Sophomore Lindsey Nein. 

"Since the first time I played with Zoe she's always been one of our strongest power hitters and to be able to see her become even more strong over this last year is amazing," Nein said. "It's cool to see how much she has gotten better and matured in the sport these past two years and I can't wait to see where the next two years are going to take her." 

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Learn all about Safe Zones

Allies of the LGBTQIA community along with faculty and staff will be hosting a Safe Zones training program, next month. Safe Zones is a program identifying individuals in the school community who are safe and supportive allies of LGTBQIA students and faculty. The Safe Zones training is put on by Highline’s Multicultural Affairs organization. The program is about learning more about the queer community and to build skills to use on the Highline campus and out in other communities. The LGBTQIA Taskforce has been working on creating a basic curriculum for the Safe Zones training that not only provides information that may seem basic or simple. Anyone is welcome to the Safe Zones training. The training will be June 2, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Writing Center, Building 26 room 319i.

Annual Vicom Portfolio Show is next week

Highline is hosting its annual portfolio show next week. Design students will show off their work and achievements on June 5 - 6. The show is in Building 8, Mt. Olympus room from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.

Faculty awards nominations due

The annual vote for Highline’s Outstanding Faculty Awards has been extended June 5. The Highline College Foundation provides two $1,500 awards to be presented to Highline College’s Outstanding Faculty of the Year. Nominations can be made by any student, staff member, faculty member or administrator of Highline. A person may make only one nomination for each award. Further detainominations need to consist of written statements from both the nominator and then a second reference that gives specific emphasis to the nominee’s contribution to education at Highline. Nominations need to be submitted to the Selection Committee in the Office of Instruction, Mailstop 9-2, by 5 p.m. on June 5.

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