PHILOMATH — Trailing Cascade 2-0, the Warriors had to keep the faith.
Faith that their volleyball skills were up to the task, that they could make a couple tiny adjustments, that they could turn the tables on their home court and secure no less than a share of the Oregon West Conference title.
It didn’t look very likely, though.
However, their faith was rewarded. The Warriors rallied to win the final three sets on Thursday, their eighth match overall, to defeat Cascade for the second time in six days.
Set scores were 16-25, 22-25, 25-20, 25-23, 15-6.
“We just told them, we’re playing well, we’re just making little incremental mistakes,” PHS coach Alain Brown said. “We’re confident in our ability. It’s a matter of cleaning up the little mistakes — serve receive better, serving better — we have confidence in ourselves, in hitting the ball and in setting it up.”
The Warriors (14-4, 8-1) controlled the third set for the most part, then overcame Cascade senior middle blocker Kassi Sanders in the fourth.
With PHS leading 19-18, Sanders crushed a hit that was initially dug, but became stuck in a raised basketball support after striking the ceiling. The lead official ruled it point, Cougars, and no amount of discussion regarding the playability of the ball would sway him.
“Don’t let it touch the ground,” senior Andrea Bartlow said of the Warriors’ approach at that point. “We just had to battle through and that’s what we did.”
The Warriors didn’t allow Cascade to move in front, getting the serve back on Courtney Croy’s kill, denying Sanders a chance to build up a service run or to return to the front row.
Croy led PHS with 19 kills. Laurel Luke had 12 kills and Bartlow and Whitney McLain both had seven kills, while Madeline Lehman came up with 49 assists.
Tierra Stephenson had 40 digs and Bartlow added 19.
The fifth set swung heavily in the Warriors’ favor when Sanders rotated to the back row and — after taking a 5-3 lead — Caitlin Pasturel was called for a net violation on an apparent block. Pasturel injured her leg on the play and was replaced by Paige Downey.
“We’re definitely going at her,” Brown said. “It would be the same if one of our players goes down.
“It also says something that we can seize that opportunity.”
The Cougars (18-6, 7-2) scored just one more point.
PHS plays at Stayton on Tuesday to end the regular season and settle the OWC title. Stayton (9-11, 7-2) lost to Cascade 3-2 on Tuesday.
“When you lose two games, there’s quite a lot of psychological change to go from losing two games to winning three in a row,” Brown said. “I think we’re ready for Stayton as well.”