Netters top Philomath in league opener

Sweet Home 3, Philomath 0

Sweet Home’s strong defense produced its first ValCo League win over Philomath in three straight games last Thursday, 25-21, 25-20, and 25-23.

The Huskies had a little more trouble with the Warriors after defeating them handily in a single game in the previous week’s jamboree. Throughout the match, Michelle Cliver’s superior serve receiving and passing gave the Husky offense a chance to attack. But Sweet Home’s serving and attack were inconsistent as they gave away too many points on unforced errors.

All of the games went back and forth. In the first game, good sets by Julie Burcham to Sara Brocard and Breanne Messmer kept the Huskies alive. At 17-19, the Huskies began to pick up the pace, scoring four points on Tabby Trahan’s service. Jessalyn Seiber finished the game with three strong hits and Messmer finished the game with a final kill.

Both Philomath and Sweet Home continued to give away points in the second game. With the score at 18-18, the Huskies settled down and earned four straight points, two on Seiber’s serves and a kill each for Kayla Thompson and Kami White. Burcham finished the match with two hard serves that Philomath could not handle.

In the final game, the Huskies established a comfortable three- to six-point margin in the middle of the game, mostly through excellent defense and waiting for Philomath to make a mistake. However, leading 23-19, Sweet Home let the Warriors back in the contest with four misfires on the front row. Brocard came through with a kill to take the lead back and Philomath hit the final ball into the net.

Coach Debbie Danielson was pleased with the team defense that kept them in the game.

“Our goal was to win in three games,” stated Danielson, “because that is a good point to make in your first league game.”

For Messmer, it was a major turning point for the team where they began to gel and understand their roles.

“This was the game where we figured out how to play as a team,” she said. “It was like we were all one. It was like you couldn’t even tell who was on the floor or on the bench. Everyone has a role.”

Stayton 3, Sweet Home 1

In their only pre-season match, the Huskies lost to a tough Stayton squad, 16-25, 11-25, 25-22, and 19-25, despite the fact that the Eagles were playing without a couple of their top players.

With the Labor Day weekend, the Huskies did not have a chance to practice prior to this match, and it showed as they got off to a slow start. Inconsistent serving was at the top of their own problems. Stayton’s varied power attack was clearly the primary factor, however.

In the third game, the Huskies looked like they were going to repeat the performance of the earlier games by making three consecutive errors. But they battled the Eagles point for point to keep the margin right there. Three tough Messmer serves erased that difference and Sweet Home battled through the nine Eagle kills, taking advantage of three consecutive missed serves by Stayton.

Trailing by one, Brocard delivered an ace and Thompson delivered a kill to give the Huskies the lead. A steady defense allowed the Huskies to watch as the Eagles uncharacteristically misfired three times at the net to give Sweet Home the victory.

Game four was a defensive struggle. Each time the Huskies drew close, however, Stayton pulled away by a couple of points, usually on Husky unforced errors. Stayton pulled away at the end of the match, controlling the net play and winning the game when Sweet Home netted their last two hits.

Sweet Home Tournament

Sweet Home, the host of an eight-team tournament, took second in pool play but was eliminated by Creswell in a closely contested match in tournament play, 25-27, 31-29, 13-15. Estacada defeated Sisters to win the tournament.

The Huskies started off strong with a 25-17 victory over Sisters, using the strong net play of Brocard and the tough serves of Burcham and Cliver. In the second game, Sisters came back with a 25-19 victory.

In its second match, the Huskies destroyed Elmira, 25-10 and 25-9. Cliver put on a serving clinic with precise placement that took the Falcons out of their game entirely. The last 10 points of the game were all connected to her serves. The second game was a product of Messmer and Burcham serves along with Seiber and Thompson’s strong play at the net. Messmer had seven points on her service rotation while Burcham had eleven.

Sweet Home also split with pool play leader Cascade. Great serves from all six servers kept the Cougars off-balanced as the Huskies took them down in game one, 25-13. The tall Cascade lineup waited until the very end to assert itself in game two. With the score deadlocked at 18, the Cougars won the last seven points with solid serves, three kills and a block to win 25-18.

The Creswell match was a heart tester. After playing fairly even in game one, Creswell’s front line fired away to take a 23-18 lead. But the Huskies would prove time and time again that they had the heart to come back with tough defense. Aided by two Bulldog net serves, Brocard served an ace to tie up the score. However, they could not make the plays at the net and came up short.

Trailing by six points, 17-23, in game two, Sweet Home once again showed its tenacity. Kills by Brocard, Thompson, and Cliver pulled them back within two. Facing elimination, Brocard, fed often by the setter, Burcham, in this match, produced another kill and Messmer put up a block to get even. After that, the Huskies had to stave off match points five times. Each time Burcham set up the ball for a kill, first Messmer, then Seiber, then Brocard twice to finally take the lead. Burcham then made the final kill herself to win the marathon game.

Unfortunately, Sweet Home dug too big of a hole for itself in the final fifteen point game. Trailing by four most of the game, the Huskies front row, starting with great back row passing, applied the heat again. After a Messmer kill, Burcham set Brocard almost exclusively and she responded with four great hits.

“Brocard had an amazing game,” said Danielson, who was also impressed with her team leadership on the floor. “Burcham was smart at the end of the game pushing it out to Sara every time.”

But a second great comeback unfortunately was spoiled when Brocard’s final hit went into the net.

“That’s the one she will take to heart, even though she had so many great hits,” said Danielson.

The Huskies showed that they could beat tough teams like Sisters, Cascade, and Creswell and they didn’t play down to lesser opponents.

“Us knowing that we have the potential will make us play up to that level,” said Burcham, the setter whose job has been made easier with the strong passing game.

The Huskies traveled to Taft on Tuesday before having a bye Thursday. This Saturday, they are entered in Scappoose’s tournament before renewing league play at Newport the following Tuesday.