Spikers go 2-2 in new, scrappy league

The Sweet Home volleyball team scrapped its way through the ValCo League jamboree on its home floor, finishing 2-2 in the single game format.

The Huskies opened against Central, who went undefeated, and led off and on throughout the contest before a late run gave the Panthers a 25-21 victory.

The Husky defense kept the taller Panthers off balance until Central made mistakes, giving Sweet Home a late 18-16 lead. When the Panthers needed it, however, their front line produced a couple of blocks and kills to pull away at the end.

Against Taft in the second game, the Huskies were always in command. Jessalyn Seiber and Breanne Messmer led Sweet Home from the front row, while Taft committed multiple defensive errors in the 25-19 outcome.

The Huskies were even more dominant in the third game against a winless Philomath. Deep, hard serves kept the Warriors on their heels for the entire game, leading to the 25-14 Husky triumph. Seiber once again led the Husky attack with four kills while Kami White added two more.

The final game versus Newport was the most intensely contested game. Marred by disruptions over official scoring difficulties, the Huskies had trouble for the first time serving consistently. However, their front row play came to the rescue.

After an even start, the Huskies outhustled the Cubs at the net to take a 7-3 lead while Erika Snow served. But it didn’t take long for Newport to tie the game at 8 after some Husky mishits. From there, it was back and forth with front lines matching strong play.

Setter Julie Burcham kept feeding the front line in great spots. Outside hitter Kayla Thompson produced three kills in a row. The Cubs followed suit. Sara Brocard, also an outside hitter, contributed three consecutive kills surrounded by four more from Seiber to give Sweet Home a 23-21 lead.

But when they had a chance to finish it, the Huskies misfired a couple times at the net and Newport finished with a block and kill to earn the 25-23 victory. The Cubs were perfect in serving while the Huskies uncharacteristically had six service errors.

Coach Debbie Danielson was pleased with the defensive hustle of the Huskies, who reached all of their goals in passing, serve reception, and serving.

“We were just going for things,” said Danielson, who noted the high number of defensive saves. “We were just making plays. It’s something you don’t expect this early in the season.”

Defensive specialist Erika Snow credited the strong defense to team play.

“We have a lot of new girls, but we played together well as a team,” Snow said.

Brocard echoed those sentiments.

“People have more of a drive this year,” the outside hitter explained. “We have a lot of people who are passionate about playing volleyball.”

With the height of some of the teams, Danielson knows that they will have to continue improving their blocking and offensive attack, including their ability to jump to get over and around blocks. But she knows that the team’s strong point will be its defense.

“It’s probably going to be the biggest part of our game due to our lack of size,” said Danielson. “It’s our strong point and we know it is, so we have to keep it strong.”

Still, Sweet Home came away from the jamboree knowing that they could beat anyone in the league.

Libero Michelle Cliver, the Huskies’ leading server in the tournament, noted the similarities between the Capital Conference and the new ValCo League.

“During the jamboree, I was thinking that this league is a lot like the Capital Conference,” Cliver said. “We will have to be on top of our game because you just never know for sure.”

On Tuesday, the Huskies played an old nemesis, the tall, talented team from Stayton, giving them one more chance to work on their defense before entering right into league play with a match at home against Philomath at 7 p.m. on Thursday.