“We actually got them as a joke,” Mulligan said, “but I was looking at it the other day and now it has a little more meaning.”
Mulligan and Nelson have been starters on Mossyrock High School’s volleyball team since they were freshman. They have come as close as you can get to making the statement on the sweatshirts a reality as the Vikings have advanced to the Class 2B state championships in each of the last three seasons, only to take home the second-place trophy every year.
“But we have one more chance this year,” Mulligan said. They certainly do and a strong one at that.
Mossyrock will once again be one of the favorites at the state tournament when it begins on Thursday, November 14 at the SunDome in Yakima.
The Vikings will bring plenty of momentum into the round of 16 as they are coming off the heels of winning the program’s first district championship.
“I don’t feel like we have a bunch of pressure on us,” said Andee Nelson, whose mother Alex coaches the team. “If you put too much pressure on yourself that’s when you start playing bad. Everyone has been playing relaxed and we’re starting to peak at the right time. We’re just ready to go.”
The Vikings lost in the championship match in 2016 to Kalama and in 2017 to Colfax. Both title contests went to five sets. Last year Mossyrock lost to La Conner in four to become the first team since Toutle Lake in 1994 to claim three consecutive second-place trophies.
“When you’ve had so much success, which they’ve had by going to state championship matches, you end up with a lot of expectations,” head coach Alex Nelson said. “They definitely have them this year. We’ve had some hiccups along the way, but we’ve learned how to deal with disappointment, and we’ve shown we have a lot of resolve and fight on this team.”
The Vikings showed plenty of that at last year’s state tournament as they advanced to the finals despite losing starting setter Shania Hadaller to a torn ACL at the district tournament.
“The goal is to get back to the state championships,” said Andee Nelson. “If we can do it without a setter last year, what are we going to do this year when we’re healthy?”
Mossyrock is 16-1 on the season and brings a 14-match winning streak into the state tournament. The Vikings’ lone setback on the year came during an early-season clash against Kalama. The Chinooks pulled off the victory in straight sets, but Mossyrock has twice avenged that loss, defeating Kalama 3-0 in the regular-season rematch and 3-2 in the district championship.
The Vikings swept 13 opponents this season, including their first three in district tournament play and sport a resume that includes wins over three state participants in Kalama, Toutle Lake and Wahkiakum.
“It’s a little bittersweet it’s coming to an end,” said Mulligan, who moved from outside hitter to libero this season. “Everything is a little heightened. We’re still coming out with the same energy and working just as hard. We know we have a target on our backs, and we need to consistently play our best game.”
Mossyrock will open state tournament play against Walla Walla Valley Academy (17-2-1). The two programs met in last year’s first-round as well with Mossyrock winning 3-1.
A victory over Walla Walla Valley Academy will send the Vikings into the quarterfinals where they will play the winner of Liberty of Spangle (16-2) and Wahkiakum (11-6).
A rematch of last year’s title game between Mossyrock and La Conner (16-0) could potentially take place in the semifinals on November 15. The undefeated Braves, who have lost only one set this season, are in the opposite quarter bracket.
“All the girls in this program constantly ask what they can do to improve,” Alex Nelson said. “They know there are other programs out there trying to accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish. I think that keeps them on their heels and moving forward.”
The Vikings feature six seniors on this year’s squad. In addition to Andee Nelson, Mulligan and Hadaller, Mossyrock also has seniors Jenifer Brockway, Amy Fitzhugh and Gracie Lovan on its roster. All six have played together since grade school.
“We know it’s coming to an end, but whenever someone brings it up, we tell them to stop talking about it. We still have time,” Andee Nelson said. “I love summer, but I was so excited for volleyball to start and now I don’t want state to start because I don’t want it to end. This has just been such a big part of all our lives for so long.”