My discovery of MTHS girls sports – teams that should not be ignored

Steve Willits – the voice of the Hawks and Sound Live Sports Network.

Steve Willits – the voice of the Hawks and Sound Live Sports Network.

By Steve Willits

Did you know there are more than three sports teams at Mountlake Terrace High School? That is what 2013 Steve Willits would tell 2011 Steve Willits if the two were to ever meet face to face. Prior to being asked to be the play-by-play announcer at MTHS last year, the only sports I had paid attention to were football, men’s basketball and baseball – all male teams and all coached by Terrace alums who are friends of mine.

You know what else present tense Steve would tell his former self from a couple of years ago? “You’ve been missing out on some outstanding MTHS sports action, and it isn’t the boys that are creating the most excitement. The Hawks girls’ games seem to be where all of the best action is happening!”

Women’s sports teams at Mountlake Terrace High School are resilient! This is something that I already knew prior to watching the MTHS volleyball team defeat Edmonds-Woodway three games to one last night, a match in which the Hawks overcame deficits of seven points or more in two separate games.

This is the second time in a little over a week that I have seen a Terrace girls team fight through adversity to win a big game as last week I had the good fortune of watching the Hawks soccer team give up a game tying goal with under a minute to go in regulation before pulling out a huge overtime victory over a Meadowdale Mavericks team that many so-called “soccer experts” think could have a chance at winning a state championship this year.

I’ve now had a chance to watch four different Terrace girls varsity teams over the past year and each of them have proven that you can never count them out until the very end of the game. Terrace girls don’t quit and their games tend to make their fans sit on the edge of their seats.

I owe a special thank you to last year’s women’s basketball team (which is essentially this year’s team, too, since there were just two seniors on varsity last year) for getting me started on my road to becoming a fan of Terrace women’s teams. MTHS teacher Vince DeMiero asked me to co-host Jam Session XIX with him last November and my first responsibility of the night was to be the public address Announcer when the girls played an intra-squad game.

I must admit that I wasn’t overly enthusiastic for the girls’ game before I arrived. I have always been a much bigger fan of the stronger and faster-paced boys game and in my opinion at the time, the girls game was just a “warm up” before the boys took the court. My attitude changed quickly though once the girls started playing. I was impressed by their hustle out on the court and how hard they were playing. They were flying up and down the court and they weren’t afraid to play physical either, they were fun to watch and I remember thinking that I definitely wanted to make it a point to watch them play a few games once the season started up. They made a fan out of me that night.

Over the course of two weeks in January I was fortunate to watch the women’s basketball team play three times, once as a fan when they played Everett, once as the PA announcer against Shorewood and once as their play-by-play announcer against Shorecrest on what was then the Hawks Live Sports Network on mltnews.com (now Sound Live Sports Network). There were moments in all three games in which I thought the Hawks were going to lose (they trailed Everett by 11 with four minutes to go in the game, trailed Shorewood by eight points at the end of the first quarter and trailed Shorecrest by 11 in the second quarter). The Hawks came back to win all three games including an exciting overtime victory against Everett and a thrilling 53-52 victory over Shorecrest when Nikki Froehlich calmly sank two free throw shots with under five seconds left in the game. I don’t know in all my years of working basketball games (I worked for the Sonics for 22 years and the Storm for eight) that I have ever seen one of my favorite basketball teams fall behind by eight points or more in three consecutive games and still come back to win all three. It was impressive.

Spring rolled around and I was asked to be the play-by-play announcer for the softball team, which turned out to be a tremendous honor. They might be the most resilient team of them all. Here is the short version of what you need to know about Terrace softball in 2013.

The entire softball program had 12 players when the season started, they barely had enough girls turn out to form a varsity team (they didn’t have enough players for a junior varsity team) and yet somehow they managed to finish tied for seventh at the state tournament in May.

I knew this team was special after broadcasting just one game. The Hawks trailed Edmonds Woodway 5-2 going into the sixth inning when MTHS star player Maddy Kristjanson stepped to the plate and hit a home run. The very next batter was Hannah Baisch and she did the same thing. The bats of the Hawks suddenly came alive and it seemed as though everyone was getting on base. By the time it was Maddy’s turn to bat again in the same inning, the Hawks were up 6-5 with the bases loaded and two outs. She then decided to showcase her power one more time and hit a grand slam home run. Two home runs and five runs batted in for Maddy in one inning! I was hooked on softball from that moment forward.

The softball playoff run by the Hawks was something that those following the program will not soon forget. Finishing fourth in the Wesco 3A South Division during the regular season, the Hawks surprised everyone by making it all the way to the District Championship game where they lost a very exciting game to softball powerhouse Meadowdale – a Mavericks team that went on to finish third in State.

The Hawks then headed down to Lacey for the State Tournament where they lost their first game against Prairie in extra innings – a game in which the Hawks were trailing 4-3  in the seventh inning and were on the verge of losing the game, down to their final strike when Hannah Wilcox hit her second home run of the game to tie it up. Prairie ended up victorious but they had to work hard to earn it. State was a double elimination tournament and the Hawks then defeated Bonney Lake to advance to play Enumclaw in the third round. The scenario was simple for this game. The winning team would advance and be one of the final eight teams left in the state tournament and the losing team would have their season come to an end.

In a matchup that ended up being my favorite game of the year (this game is available on-demand at the Sound Live Sports Network and is worth watching), the Hawks scored 10 runs in the final three innings of the game, including two grand slam home runs (one by Rene Bos and one by Hannah Baisch) to come back to win the game 12-8 after trailing at one point 7-2. The Hawks would be eliminated from the tournament the next morning and finished the state tournament in a seventh place tie, not bad considering there are 63 teams that play 3A softball in the state of Washington. I don’t think I have ever been more proud of a team and I can’t wait to see what they are able to accomplish in the spring of 2014.

Women’s sports at Mountlake Terrace are alive and well. I couldn’t be happier that my current role as play-by-play announcer and weekly Hawkeye “blogger” have given me the motivation necessary to get to the games and watch sports that I had not been paying attention to in the past. My plan is to continue to attend various MTHS sporting events and I hope to discover other teams and athletes that will also inspire me to write about them for future articles. Go Hawks!