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Following an intense five-set match at Sisters early last week, the Philomath High School volleyball team had eight days to think about what it wanted to accomplish in the final two regular-season matches before embarking on the postseason.

Coach Denee Newton wants to see the players clean up their play a bit and she wouldn’t mind seeing a presence of vocal leadership emerge on the floor. The most important aspect of those practices, however, was to simply get the girls in better shape.

“I’m leery of doing fitness instead of volleyball but I know I want them to be fit and strong,” Newton said after Philomath’s 25-18, 25-9, 25-12 Senior Night win Wednesday over Woodburn. “So we kinda figured out a way to embed it into every single drill and just make drills really, really tough. They’ve been leaving the gym totally wiped out.”

Senior Megan Harper, who transferred into Philomath High from Alsea and had an immediate impact on the lineup, said the players welcomed the hard work.

“We all kinda liked it because we got to do some conditioning during practice and so we’re all a lot more in shape now,” Harper said. “We enjoyed having a little bit of a break.”

To help raise the fitness bar in practice was former PHS player Ella Skinkis, whose younger sister, Claire, is a starter.

“Ella Skinkis is doing ROTC at the University of Portland and she came back and gave us some ROTC training,” Newton said. “It was wonderful — we just took the ROTC plans and embedded them in the drills.”

Sophomore Ashlynn Barron said it was a little difficult getting back on the floor Wednesday after the significant layoff from match competition. Plus, those practices have been a challenge.

“It’s a little rough because we’ve been having some really physical practices and just a lot of running and drills that are harder than normal, so we’re all a little sore,” Barron said. “It is a little hard getting back (in competition) but after the first set, I think we really picked it up a lot.”

Woodburn, which will finish last in the Oregon West Conference, took advantage of Philomath’s slow start and led 11-10 when Newton called a timeout. The Warriors responded by scoring six of the next seven points. Ashley Matthews’ ace serve a couple of easy dunk taps by Pankalla at the net helped Philomath to a 16-12 lead.

“If our opponent’s out of system, we’re out of system,” Newton said. “One of our weakest areas is we don’t have any vocal leadership. ... This is a behavior that has to change now, especially against teams like this where we’re trying to work stuff out and prepare for the playoffs.”

Woodburn trailed 20-17 later in the set only to see the Warriors finish strong. After the Bulldogs served into the net, Pankalla had a kill and Matthews followed with a hit that Woodburn’s back-line couldn’t handle for a 23-17 lead. The final points were scored at the service line as Philomath survived those early problems.

“In these last two league games, I’m going to be getting after them about little things because we don’t play a team like Sweet Home or Sisters until the play-in, so it’s hard,” Newton said. “I know I do funky lineups and put people in all the time and I’m subbing in and out, but we still have these goals. We didn’t meet our goals tonight.”

After the first set, Philomath pretty much rolled as one would expect. The two teams traded points evenly early in the second set but Philomath pulled away with Jordyn Foster serving. The PHS lead went to 10-5 on a Joelle Berger backhand that dropped and 11-5 on a Pankalla hit onto open floor. The Warriors scored had long scoring runs with Barron and Laura Noble serving.

In the third, Skinkis had four-point serving runs twice during the set. The match ended with Sage Kramer hitting for points on No. 23 and No. 24 and a Woodburn hit into the net on No. 25.

Kramer and Pankalla had nine and seven kills, respectively. Noble finished with a team-high seven digs, which brought accolades from the coach, while Skinkis had five aces and both Abigail Brown and Kramer had two blocks.

Barron said the team reached a new level of confidence after the Sisters battle.

“We only lot by two (points) and we had a lot of confidence and energy throughout the whole thing,” she said. “It was just a few dumb mistakes and that’s why we lost.

“I think that we are really strong and with more practice, we could beat Sisters and Sweet Home,” she added.

The team goal is to reach the top of 4A.

“Our plan is to win the state championship,” Harper said.

The Warriors will play again Thursday with a trip to Newport.


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Philomath 3, Woodburn 0


Wednesday at Philomath

WOODBURN (1-17, 0-12)    18    9  12

PHILOMATH (12-10, 7-4)     25  25  25

Kills—Sage Kramer 9. Service Points—Claire Skinkis 12. Aces—Claire Skinkis 5. Blocks—Abigail Brown 2, Sage Kramer 2. Digs—Laura Noble 7.


Junior Varsity


Philomath 2, Woodburn 0

Wednesday at Philomath

WOODBURN     21  16

PHILOMATH     25  25

Team notes: Philomath’s record goes to 14-5 with the victory. ... Sophomore Marlee Heiken had seven kills and five aces in the two-set victory. ... The JV team ends the season Thursday with a trip to Newport.


Junior Varsity II


Philomath 2, Woodburn 0

Wednesday at Philomath

WOODBURN     21  23

PHILOMATH     25  25

Team notes: Philomath’s JVII record goes to 7-8 on the season. ... The JVII team is scheduled to play Thursday at Newport.

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