PHILOMATH — Kaela Lindsey has seen her share of tight volleyball sets in previous years, many of which Philomath came out on the losing end.
But she says 2017 is different.
The Warriors proved that Tuesday night. They won two of three close ones to get past visiting Stayton in four sets in the Oregon West Conference opener for both teams.
Set scores were 28-26, 22-25, 25-11, 26-24.
“That’s one of our strong suits, and that’s crazy because that’s never been our team in the past,” said Lindsey, Philomath’s standout senior outside hitter. “We’ve never been able to come back like that after we’ve tied, after they’ve been ahead.”
The Warriors (6-2, 1-0) dominated the third set to lead 2-1 after watching a late lead in the second fade away. They started strong in the fourth, scoring the first three points of the set and never trailing while building a 19-10 lead.
But that’s where the ability to finish out the set and the match got away from the home team. Stayton (3-5, 0-1) used a 12-3 run to eventually tie it at 22-all as Philomath committed a string of errors.
The score was tied twice more, at 23- and 24-all, before a Lindsey kill put the Warriors ahead for good. Lindsey cleaned up a Stayton overpass to finish it.
First-year head coach Denee Newton says her team has played well with the pressure on this season.
“Tonight was kind of a perfect example of maintaining control under pressure and finally finishing the match,” she said.
Lindsey had a team-high 26 kills to go with two blocks. Emma Pankela added 12 kills, Haidyn Ecker four blocks and Aleasha Nelson two blocks. Lindsay Piper had 34 kills to lead the back row.
Newton said Pankela, a sophomore middle blocker and outside hitter, stood out against the Eagles.
Pankela returned to volleyball after playing soccer last season and is making strides.
“She has made a connection with the setter now and is figuring out how to really execute the ball,” Newton said. “We’ve been working on her being another go-to hitter.”
Pankela and the Warriors pulled out a competitive first set.
The lead jumped back and forth before Stayton scored three straight to lead 23-21. Philomath answered with three in a row but couldn’t convert on two set-point opportunities.
Stayton took a 26-25 lead, and Joelle Berger helped the Warriors get back to even with a kill. A Pankela kill and a Stayton hitting error gave the set to Philomath.
The Warriors took control early in the second set, going ahead 5-1, 8-2 and holding the advantage to lead 15-10. Stayton responded to lead 18-17, and Philomath came back with three straight to lead 20-18 on a Lindsey ace.
The teams traded quick two-point runs before the Eagles scored the last five — four coming on Philomath errors — to even the match.
Lindsey said losing the second set lit a fire under her team.
The third set was tight early on but quickly belonged to the Warriors. Philomath led 11-8 before breaking away with a 9-2 run that Lindsey capped with two aces. Ecker had two straight blocks and finished the set by sending an overpass to the floor.
The Warriors return six players from a 2016 team that tied Cascade for the Oregon West title and reached the 4A state round of 16. They want to reach the state tournament final site as one of the last eight teams this fall.
Lindsey was a first team all-league selection. Junior libero Lindsey Luke and Ecker were named to the honorable mention.