Volleyball seniors say goodbye by dominating Taft

The Sweet Home volleyball team finished its season with a dominating performance at home against Taft, winning 25-10, 25-17 and 25-12, on senior night.

As part of senior night, the entire team rotated through all positions during the first game, with everyone except Tana Tyler collecting a kill at the net. Normally, a defensive player, Tyler, at 5 feet 2 inches, notched two hits during the game.

Coach Debbie Danielson, also participating in her last volleyball game, gave special recognition to Tyler for also scoring a two on serve receive and serving 12-12 with two aces.

The team played well, with a serve receive score of 2.16 on a scale of zero to three, Danielson said. The team served 95 percent.

“I think we just played really relaxed,” Danielson said. “The seniors had all their heart into it.”

The rest of the girls played hard for them, she said.

Seniors include Alisha Huschka, Sam Johnson, Hillary McCartin, Tyler and Cassidy Sullivan, who was unable to play in the game.

Johnson led at the net with 12 kills, while Annie Whitfield added seven.

Whitfield is an example of who will return next year, Danielson said. “For next year, they have such a good core group.”

But that team will be under a new coach. Danielson is retiring from coaching after 20 years.

Her oldest daughter is pregnant with her first grandchild, and she is looking forward to spending time with them.

She started coaching freshmen under Steve Emmert. After six years, she started coaching club ball in Lebanon. She coached three years at Lebanon High School before returning to Sweet Home where she hoped to coach junior varsity.

Steve Emmert, who had become athletic director, hired her to coach varsity, where she has been for the past five years.

While the team’s season record includes only three official wins in league play, against Taft twice and Central once, and several games in tournaments, “I think we played the best Sweet Home has played for years,” Danielson said. One win, against Philomath, was forfeited when the team was disqualified for academic reasons.

That game was outside the team’s control, she said. The team played Newport to four games as well, she said, and the Huskies played some tough tournaments.

“I still believe we’re the number three team as far as ability,” she said, but the forfeit and team issues the next time the Huskies faced Philomath kept that from showing.

“They didn’t really come together as a team like they needed to finish it off,” she said. “Team chemistry kind of went south when we needed it in that game against Philomath.”

The highlight of the season was taking Central in three games, something that hasn’t been done anywhere in league for about the past five years, she said. Central was the number two team in league, and Central would have tied Newport for number one had Central managed to defeat the Huskies.

The team’s awards dessert will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the high school cafeteria.