Philomath's Clara Stanley had a team-high seven kills vs. Cascade Tuesday night. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Two years ago in the season’s league-opening match in Philomath, the Warriors stunned Cascade with a five-set victory. The Cougars, a team that went on to win the Class 4A state title that season, won the first two sets before Philomath staged a furious comeback.

This fall’s schedule again sent Cascade into Warrior territory for the Oregon West opener for both schools Tuesday night. And again, the Cougars took the first two sets before Philomath settled into a rhythm to start finding success.

But this time around, Cascade weathered the storm, regrouped in the fourth set and got out of town with a 25-16, 25-22, 23-25, 25-12 victory.

“There’s a couple of positions that we’re still trying to figure out,” PHS coach Autumn Hilberg said afterward. “It’s a game-by-game, practice-by-practice basis. We really want someone to win it and want it. I like what I see and we’re improving. We just played a really tough team.”

Cascade, last year’s 4A state runner-up, went to work right away and won six of the first seven points — the only mark against being a serve into the net. Junior Kamryn Sande and senior Annabelle Peterson were effective with their hitting and the Warriors had some early issues to get into a hole.

But Philomath fought back and tied the set, 8-8, with six straight points. Senior Clara Stanley got things started with a sideout hit to bring junior Ashleigh Brown to the service line. Brown had a couple of aces during the run, including one that hit the top of the net and fell over to the floor.

Philomath’s Madison Provance makes a play on the ball while teammates Shaylee May (15) and Ahnika Tryon (10) look on. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Those types of highlights were too few over the course of the evening, however. Cascade regained the lead on a Peterson hit and methodically pulled away while building momentum.

Cascade’s offense came at the Warriors with a combination of strong hitting and precision placement over the blockers.

“Just picking us apart defensively and no one really stepping in and laying it all out,” Hilberg said.

There were similarities with how play unfolded in the second set. The two teams battled back and forth early and Philomath trailed just 9-8 at one point. But Cascade again had answers to pull away. The Warriors did stick around, however, and pulled to within 24-22 on an ace serve by senior Ahnika Tryon and a slam at the net by freshman Nora Stanley. Cascade persevere, though, and finally got its 25th point.

In the third, Philomath turned a corner and avoided falling into a hole midway through like the first two sets. Cascade turned an 8-6 deficit into an 11-8 lead but this time couldn’t keep the momentum going to pull away. The Warriors regained the lead with a run of six straight points to set up a thriller the rest of the way.

With the set tied 21-21, Brown found a hole in the Cascade defense to give PHS the lead and then followed with another hit to put the Warriors up by two. After the Cougars were able to score — the point coming on a Philomath pass too close to the net — the Warriors took a 24-22 lead when Cascade hit wide.

The set-winning point came on a Tryon kill from the left side with an assist to Brown.

Philomath freshman Nora Stanley gets ready to hit Tuesday against the Cougars. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

“Since we took a set off of them, it really shows that we’re able to recognize things on the other side of the court and fix what we need to do,” Brown said. “It also just makes us realize the different things we really need to work on.”

And what are some of those things to work on?

“Executing, just putting the ball away,” she said.

Cascade was the team putting the ball away in the fourth set with Philomath unable to carry over its momentum.

“We knew what they were going to do … we just couldn’t execute,” Hilberg said of Cascade’s offense. “I think the next time we play them, we’re going to play a tougher match.”

Reflecting on the match, Hilberg believes her team could’ve at least won a second set and pushed the match to five sets.

“Service errors in untimely spots and unforced errors — not really putting the ball away when we should on our swings,” Hilberg said.

Stat leaders for PHS included Clara Stanley’s 20 kills, Madison Provance’s 51 digs, Brown’s 20 assists and Nora Stanley’s 11 aces. At the net, Nora Stanley and Ahnika Tryon each had two blocks.

Cascade came into the match after competing in a weekend tournament at Sisters while the Warriors were playing for the first time after a 12-day competitive break. Brown said the team needs those in-game reps to improve.

“It’s kind of awkward because it’s really loud and it’s such a change to playing from practices,” Brown said about the Tuesday match. “But it also helps in some ways because it gives us energy.”

Philomath (3-3, 0-1) has reached a busier stretch in the schedule with a trip to Newport Thursday followed by two home matches next week against North Marion and Sweet Home before participating in the Mount Hood Invite at Barlow High.

“I think if we would’ve played last week we might not have come in so rusty,” Hilberg said. “We’re going to learn how to want to compete every point.”