Lake Washington’s Helen Arnold (7) and Makena Smith (9) leap for a block against Ballard’s Nalaya Hongvilay (10) as the Beavers’ Kristiane Maynard (1) watches on Nov. 14 at Lakeside High. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Lake Washington’s Helen Arnold (7) and Makena Smith (9) leap for a block against Ballard’s Nalaya Hongvilay (10) as the Beavers’ Kristiane Maynard (1) watches on Nov. 14 at Lakeside High. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Lake Washington volleyball squad forms family ties

Kangs finish season at district tournament.

It was the final group gathering of the season.

As the Lake Washington volleyball squad sat in a circle after its season-ending loss to Ballard, Kang head coach Alyssa Flowers crossed the court and asked family and friends to join them. Everyone followed and stood nearby as the Kangs discussed the match and their season, giving shout-outs along the way.

The 25-20, 25-23, 25-16 loss in the 3A SeaKing district tournament was tough, Flowers told the Reporter on Nov. 14 at Lakeside High in Seattle, but the girls rose above the defeat and shared their feelings with the crowd.

Flowers said that following every home game — win or lose — this season, it was important to invite the Kang faithful into the fold and let them know they’re a vital part of the program by supporting the squad. The Kang student section on hand made a big difference in the second set against Ballard, Flowers added.

“We talked about how much of a family we feel like, and I think Izzy (Macpherson) said she’s sad we’re out, but she’s more sad that she doesn’t get to come back to the gym tomorrow,” Flowers said of the postgame meeting.

Macpherson, a senior middle blocker, said it was hard to find words to discuss the season in the circle because her emotions took over. They were a family this season and their goal was to qualify for state.

“I literally couldn’t have asked for a better team my senior year. These girls are literally my best friends and that’s why I’m gonna be so upset tonight going to bed and not gonna be able to come to the gym tomorrow and be with my family,” said Macpherson, adding that she’ll cherish the memories the team made this season.

As Macpherson’s words rolled forth, sophomore right side/middle blocker Elise Hani lent comfort by placing a hand on her teammate’s shoulder.

Lake Washington finished with an 11-8 overall record and qualified for districts with an epic 18-25, 19-25, 25-19, 25-18, 15-13 victory over Mercer Island at the 3A KingCo tournament.

Hani discussed what being a part of the Kang squad meant to her this season.

“Coming in, I feel like we were kind of the underdog. Just getting to exceed everyone’s expectations, watching everyone just kind of blossom and grow as people, and then just create this community that will carry on to next year has really been cool to watch,” Hani said.

The tallest Kang at 6-foot-4, Hani unleashed a tidal wave of emotion after each big play against Ballard. She added that over the past few years, her love of volleyball has increased during her LW experience.

Flowers said that Hani provided huge momentum shifts when she constantly called for the ball and blasted ground-shaking kills to go along with towering blocks. Makena Smith also hit hard and blocked big, and Chloe Murakami was relentless on the defensive front, Flowers added.

Hani issued some praise as well, giving a shout-out to Helen Arnold for consistently making big plays.

As Macpherson rejoined the conversation after sneaking away to visit with friends, she noted that contributing to the varsity squad for three years has been an unforgettable journey.

“I’ve seen the progression of the girls, and this season has been like no other. We just all came into this season with a goal of having more wins than losses and making it to KingCo, and we did,” the Kang said, adding that she plans to continue having fun with volleyball on the club or intramural scene in college.

Macpherson feels that she thrives in the sports arena.

“That’s for me where you can build the tightest relationships with people and you really just become one,” she said.

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