Chelan senior Emma McLaren, who led the team with 20 kills and 22 digs, hoists the state trophy following the Goats' five-set win over the Kings Knights last year.

CHELAN — It’s been quite a year for senior volleyball players Katie Rainville and Elly Collins.

Last November, they forever cemented themselves as volleyball legends throughout Lake Chelan after helping lead the Goats to a perfect (20-0) record in 2019. They gutted out a grueling five-set battle against Kings, erasing a two-set deficit to capture the school’s second 1A state volleyball championship in the past decade. And now, as of last week, both are committed to playing college volleyball.

Rainville signed with Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, and Collins will play beach volleyball at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona.

“I’m excited to get out and start the next chapter of my life,” Rainville said in a conference-call interview last week. “I think it will be fun to compete at that next level and I’ve visited Lewiston quite a bit since my dad grew up there.”

Collins, who’s played beach volleyball since eighth grade and been in contact with Grand Canyon since she was a freshman, said she is thrilled to move south and compete at the collegiate level for a sport that is still relatively new.

“I’ve been playing indoor volleyball a lot longer, so I still have a lot to learn about playing beach volleyball at the higher levels,” she said. “But I’ve always known that I liked it more having just one partner and only two people on the court. It’s more meaningful to win games and work with one another.”

Though the pandemic has pushed the start of the fall prep season to the March, both Collins and Rainville said they’ve been able to train with the local Kahiau Beach Volleyball Club over the summer.

When asked how often they think back to that chilly, exhausting, blissful, championship November afternoon in the SunDome, the response was the same: frequently.

“Whenever you’re having a bad day or practice, I think about the feeling of that last point,” Collins said. “It was just a crazy feeling; it’s indescribable.”

Rainville agreed, saying she uses the game as encouragement for times when she struggles.

“I just think, 'we lost the first two sets in the finals at state and came back and won; there is still room for me to (succeed),'” she said.

Considering the Goats lost only three players from last year’s championship team, they still have a chance at repeating, something no other Goats volleyball team has accomplished.

At the same time, having those championship expectations creates a mountain of pressure.

“I know the community will support us no matter what,” Rainville said. “We only lost three seniors and have a majority of the team coming back; without an offseason where you’re supposed to train and get better, that puts more pressure on us to go out and perform, but we’ve been under pressure throughout every year.”

Both said the key to last year’s team, aside from the dominating play of Rainville, Collins and Emma McLaren, was their chemistry. And that hasn’t really changed.

“Even with a few new girls moving in, we’re still really close, which allows our skills to do the work,” Rainville said. “And we’re still mentally strong, if not stronger."