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It’s back to the classroom for the Philomath High School volleyball team.

Sweet Home mounted a strong offensive attack and pounced on Philomath errors to pull off a 25-18, 25-17, 25-9 sweep Thursday night in an important early-season Oregon West Conference showdown.

Warriors coach Denee Newton believes her team can be competitive against Sweet Home with an improved approach.

“Here’s what I’m going to tell the girls: ‘We have so much work to do still and so much growth and :Sweet Home is right where they’re going to be. And so we’re going to play them again and hopefully it’s in league and again in the state championship as soon as we get the mental game going and saying we’re going to be the team to beat.’ That’s what I think,” Newton said.

Philomath has been focusing mostly on its serve receive in practice early this season and only recently refocused its energy on the offense.

“Our team average for serve receive is 2.2, so we’re OK,” said Newton, using a point system that considers 2.0-plus average exceptional. “We had a couple of moments where we dipped but we worked on the hitting as the sole objective of practice for the first time yesterday (Wednesday). We spent some time in the classroom going over some keys and just started connecting some of the dots.”

Eliminating unforced errors will turn things around in a hurry when playing an opponent the caliber of Sweet Home.

“We can’t do the ‘sillys’ — we got three setter leaving too early calls, we missed seven serves and had a handful of unforced errors that we cannot afford with Sweet Home, because they just keep on coming,” Newton said.

The Huskies, which remain unbeaten at 6-0 and have not lost a set this season, had impressive responses every time Philomath tried to make a run. In the opening set, Philomath started to dig out of an early hole and pulled to within 20-16 after scoring four straight points — two points on Joelle Berger hits, another on a Claire Skinkis ace serve and the fourth when Sweet Home’s serve receive faltered.

The two teams traded serves into the net before the Huskies took control by scoring four of the next five points.

In the second set, the lead changed hands several times halfway through before Sweet Home started to pull away. Philomath trailed just 12-11 after an Emma Pankalla kill but the Huskies came right back with three straight points.

That small opening was all Sweet Home needed to take control. The Warriors did get back to within 20-16 with Sage Kramer and Berger hitting hard but it wasn’t enough to turn the tide.

Philomath and Sweet Home were tied at 7-7 at one point in the third set. The Warriors appeared to have momentum going on a Megan Harper block for a kill followed by a Berger ace serve. But it was short-lived with the Huskies going on a tear the rest of the way. Sweet Home finished the match on an 18-2 run.

Philomath had just 16 kills as a team against the Huskies with Berger recording a team-high six.

“We’ve got to work on hitting now,” Newton said. “Our serve receive’s OK now; we’ve got to work on our offensive game. And really, confidence is going to be big for us.”

Sweet Home’s big hitters did hit into Philomath blocks on occasion. Abigail Brown had three solo blocks and Harper finished with four blocks for kills.

For Newton and her team, the work continues.

“We’ll go back to the classroom tomorrow and have another tournament next weekend,” she said.

Philomath’s varsity gets the weekend off and will resume conference play Tuesday at Cascade.


Sweet Home 3, Philomath 0

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Thursday at Philomath

SWEET HOME (6-0, 2-0)     25  25  25

PHILOMATH (3-2, 1-1)       18  17    9


Junior Varsity


Sweet Home 2, Philomath 1

Thursday at Philomath

SWEET HOME     20  25  15

PHILOMATH       25  19  11

Team notes: The JV team goes to 1-3 on the season. … Jeorgia Mast had six aces serving for the Warriors. … Olivia Reams had a team-high five kills. … Adria Kaumanns and Marlee Heiken each had four kills. … Cassidy Lewis had two blocks. … The JV team heads to a tournament Saturday at Stayton.


Junior Varsity II


Sweet Home 2, Philomath 1

Thursday at Philomath

SWEET HOME     25  15  15

PHILOMATH       20  25    8

Team notes: The JVII team’s record goes to 1-1 on the season. … The team had 17 kills and nine aces against the Huskies. … The JVII team’s next match is set for Tuesday at Cascade.

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