Huskies come alive in Cascade volleyball tournament

Ken Roberts

For The New Era

The Sweet Home volleyball team took one step back and then several steps forward during last week’s matches.

Their first home match versus Banks was their step back. The Huskies came out flat, losing the opening game 14-25 and then dropped the next two games in identical 20-25 scores.

In both the last two games, Sweet Home held the lead but then had spots where they gave away points both defensively and offensively.

At Scappoose, Sweet Home seemed to have everything under control. In their opener,

Paige Niemi served 14 consecutive points to build a huge lead and an eventual 25-14 win. Solid serve reception and passing also improved their offensive strength, led by freshman Emili Riggs, who had three kills and two other well-placed directional hits for winners.

The Huskies put the Indians in a deep hole when they took game two, 25-20. Sweet Home grabbed command midway into the game on the tough serving of Alisha Huschka.

Throughout the game, the Huskies competed well during many long rallies, which contributed to the ultimate victory.

But the rest of the night would belong to Scappoose, starting with a 25-18 win in game three. Game four was competitive down to the final count.

Strong service runs by Huschka and Tasha Saunders kept the Huskies in front. At 23-20, the Huskies appeared ready to take the match, but instead they became very tentative, allowing Scappoose to tip or kill their way to five straight points and a 2-2 tie.

The Huskies led early in the 15-point final game but allowed the Indians to climb back to a 7-7 tie. From that point on, Sweet Home made enough errors to allow Scappoose to complete the implausible comeback, 15-11.

“We played not to lose instead of playing to win,” said coach Debbie Danielson. “We talked about hitting the ball the whole game instead of just tipping it.

With the improved defense, led by Tana Tyler during the Scappoose match, Danielson

hopes the offense will become stronger.

“If we get everybody confident, we’ll start getting better,” said Danielson. “I’m hoping that in the middle of the season, we will start getting higher numbers of kills.”

In the Cascade Tournament last Saturday, the Huskies began to show signs of that confidence and being able to finish the close games. From their defense to a stronger set and hitting attack, Sweet Home began its step forward.

They opened the pool play with a close match against Valco competitor Newport, losing 23-25 and 26-28. In their second match, the Huskies avenged a first game 20-25 loss to Cascade by upending the Cougars 25-17.

But it was the next two matches, both against Junction City, that Sweet Home began to find some fire. Throughout most of the first game, the Huskies trailed the Tigers by a point or two and that’s the way it ended, 23-25. In the second game, Junction City gradually began to pull away, leading by as much as six points. Trailing 18-23, the

Huskies clawed their way back with a Bayli Riggs ace, an Emili Riggs kill, and then Annie Whitfield’s soft hit through a block that tied the score at 24, the first of four times they would have to stave off game point.

Finally, Devyn Makin put together a stretch of three well-placed hits and tips that put Sweet Home over the top, 30-28.

In the championship play, the Huskies were once again matched up against Junction City. Sweet Home had to rely on its newly found fortitude to defeat the Tigers, 28-26, in the opening game. Similar to their last game, the Huskies had to fend off two game points before Emili Riggs finished off the game with a kill and two service points.

Sweet Home lost game two, 22-25, despite four kills by Sam Johnson. Johnson continued her strong play into the final game by staking the Huskies to a 7-2 on her strong serving and two incredible defensive saves.

Bayli Riggs continued the pressure, producing a four-point service run of her own. The Huskies nearly gave up their huge lead, letting the Tigers kill and block their way back to just a one point deficit. However, Tiffany Miller set Hillary McCartin and then Johnson to save the match.

In their final match against top-seeded Cottage Grove, the Huskies stayed even through the first 30 points, but then the Lions turned up the offensive heat to dominate Sweet Home 25-16 and 25-10. Overall, the Huskies finished fourth in the tournament.

Sweet Home has a bye on Thursday and a tournament at Sisters on Saturday before they travel to Newport on Tuesday, Sept. 23, for their league opener.