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Originally published November 9, 2012 at 10:01 PM | Page modified November 9, 2012 at 10:20 PM

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Holy Names in semis as upsets rock favorites | 3A Volleyball

Top-ranked Mercer Island and No. 2 Mount Si lost early, as only one top-five team survived its opener at the state tournament.

Special to The Seattle Times

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LACEY — On a day when most of the state's top-ranked Class 3A volleyball teams fell, a pair of former No. 1s stole the show.

Holy Names, once ranked No. 1, continued an up-and-down season with a pair of wins Friday at St. Martin's College. With four-set wins over No. 8 Bonney Lake and No. 3 Mount Spokane, the Cougars reached the state's final four for the first time.

"I'm extremely proud of this team," said Holy Names coach Brian Richards, whose Cougars lost six of seven matches at one point this season. "This team has battled through so much this year. They had a lot of expectations that made it really hard for them to play at the beginning of the season ... but we just kept believing."

Their reward is a semifinal showdown against a team that has faced a similarly bumpy path, No. 9 Prairie. The state's preseason top-ranked team battled illness while struggling to a fifth-place finish in last weekend's bi-district tournament, but was clearly back in form Friday. The Falcons started with a five-set win over No. 1 Mercer Island before a three-set sweep of Auburn Mountainview.

"We haven't really seen a team like Prairie," said Holy Names' Richards. "There aren't a lot of teams that are that big."

Saturday's other semifinal will feature No. 7 Southridge of Kennewick against North Thurston. Backed by a hometown crowd, North Thurston won a five-set quarterfinal thriller against No. 6 Columbia River, winning 15-8 in the fifth set.

The semifinal winners will play for the title at 8:15 p.m. Saturday.

Mercer Island, which entered the tournament 21-1, was one of several teams upset early on Friday. The Islanders rebounded to beat Stanwood, but can finish no higher than seventh.

"I told them it's OK for their hearts to be broken right now," Islanders coach Susan McKay said after the opening loss.

"Our goal was to win and that's what we wanted, but at the same time we're not going to fall down and be done. We need to show the rest of the teams we deserve to be here and it wasn't a mistake for us to be (ranked) No. 1."

No. 2 Mount Si, which last weekend lost the district championship to Mercer Island in five sets, opened with a three-set loss to Glacier Peak.

In a loser-out game, Mount Si faces No. 4 Seattle Prep. Last year's third-place finisher, Prep lost its opener to Columbia River, then knocked out No. 5 Shorewood.

The only top-five team to win its opener was Mount Spokane.

Times staff reporter Sandy Ringer contributed.

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