Story by Justin Gimse – Photos by Rocky Ross
Any fan of sports can tell you about the big upsets they’ve witnessed over the years. It doesn’t matter what sport you are dealing with, big upsets happen, and they often seem to hit like a thunder clap. Sometimes it’s a matter of a league-leading team playing down to their opponent’s level and finding themselves unable to pull the contest out of what often feels like quicksand. No matter how big the stars are on the team, it seems to happen at least once a week in one sport or another around Tacoma.
When the Henry Foss Falcons paid a visit to John McCrossin Court at Fife High School on Tuesday, Oct. 10, they were hoping to pull the heavily-favored Trojans down a few notches and make the short trip back to Tyler Street with the sort of upset that athletic programs build upon for future years.
The only problem facing the Falcons on this night was the Trojans inability to comply with the hopes and wishes of the gritty Foss squad.
When you walk into Fife’s gymnasium, it’s hard to miss all of the league title and state appearance markers on the wall. One of the most impressive of the bunch is what the volleyball program has done over the past 25 years. Squinting one eye and counting off, I tallied 20 league titles for the Trojans in that span of time, including four state championships. This is a state-level, powerhouse volleyball program we’re talking about here.
Entering the game with just one blemish on their record, the Trojans went through their business like a well-oiled machine against a Foss crew that kept digging deep with everything they had. Unfortunately for the underdogs, the Falcons just aren’t quite at a high-enough level to really give a top-notch team such as the Trojans, a true run for their money.
They sure did try though.
Early in the game, it was apparent that Foss was going to have trouble digging and returning Fife’s myriad of sensational serves. When the Falcons could get a solid dig on a Fife serve, the ball would often find its way back over the net, or nearly over, causing trouble for their front line as they then had to scramble and try to make a save. The end result left Foss off-balance over the first set, and the Falcons fell 25-12.
Volleyball is a game of runs, where a squad will rack up five or six points (or more) in a row, and swing the game quickly in their favor. Those runs can also erase big deficits and turn a cakewalk into a horse race to the finish.
Foss wasn’t able to muster one of the these runs on the night, and it hurt them. Coupled with a growing number of aces served up by the Trojans, the Falcons remained on their heels throughout the second set, falling 25-16. While many teams often hang their heads and sleepwalk through the remainder of a match like this, the Falcons remained upbeat, smiling and high-fiving each other from start to finish.
The positive attitude throughout the Foss side was absolutely refreshing and a true testament to the kind of program that Foss head coach Rochelle Rosario is working hard to build. I can see the day when a little bit more team height will matchup with a growing skillset at Foss, and the rest of the 2A South Puget Sound League will be put to the test.
However, it wasn’t going to be this night, as the Trojans continued playing within themselves, while limiting their own mistakes. The contest was a wrap when Fife took the third set by a score of 25-13. When Fife held serve, they were brutal throughout the three sets. Foss did everything they could to dig out and return service, but in the end the Trojans had amassed 17 aces and Foss couldn’t climb themselves out of that sort of hole.
The Trojans (7-1 SPSL, 9-1 overall) needed the victory to stay within reach of the league-leading White River Hornets (8-0, 9-0). With one match remaining against their biggest league rival, Fife will need to rack-up a victory over their other four opponents to end the regular season, if they hope to have a chance at splitting the league title with White River. The Hornets have lost just one set this season, and that was in their 3-1 victory at Fife on Monday, Sept. 25. Chances are they will torch through the remainder of their contests, except for their Wednesday, Oct. 18 date at home against Fife.
The Falcons’ district playoff hopes are growing slimmer, but they’re still in the hunt for a third or fourth-place finish. They’re going to need to catch some serious fire though, and get some help from some other teams. Foss trails Franklin Pierce and Washington by three games in the win column, while having two more losses at 3-5 and 3-6 overall. With two games still to play against White River, out of the remaining five league games, it may take some serious magic.