Madison Juhl goes up for a block against Cascade's Meah Carley. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath High School volleyball team made a couple of good runs in Thursday’s Oregon West Conference matchup against visiting Cascade, but the opponent always recovered and ended up closing out a three-set win to remain unbeaten in league play.

The Cougars (11-2 overall, 6-0 Oregon West Conference) for the second time this season posted a three-set victory over the Warriors. The set scores were 25-19, 25-13, 25-15.

“We just didn’t really click tonight,” PHS coach Autumn Hilberg said. “When you only have one or two players on, it’s really hard to play well.”

In the first set, Cascade jumped out to a significant early lead but the Warriors fought back and trailed just 17-15 at one point. But the Cougars regrouped and finished strong by taking eight of the next 12 points.

Said Hilberg, “We made some untimely errors, which will always break your rhythm.”

Cascade and Philomath played very close through the first 15 points of the second set with the Cougars clinging to an 8-7 lead. After getting a side-out, Cascade junior Lucretia Benolken then went on a 6-0 run as the visitors took control and pulled away for good.

Hilberg said she was impressed with Cascade senior setter Meah Carley.

“I think their setter is phenomenal and I don’t want to take away from the way she played,” Hilberg said. “She runs that team and it’s really hard to stop when you never see someone like that, so she did awesome.”

PHS sophomore Ashleigh Brown hits the ball past Cascade’s Annabelle Peterson. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath trailed 9-3 early on in the third set but rallied to take a 12-11 lead. After a Cascade timeout, the Warriors served long to tie the score and the Cougars never trailed the rest of the way. Cascade put together a 12-1 run to put it away.

Hilberg said junior Ahnika Tryon with her hitting and sophomore Ashleigh Brown with her setting were Philomath’s most impressive players in the match.

“Ahnika Tryon, she did well, she got us kills when we needed it,” Hilberg said. “And Ashleigh Brown set a good game. It’s hard to set every ball well when we’re not passing too well, but she hustled, she dunked overpasses twice in a row that we usually don’t pick up. So I’m proud of those two — they were on.”

Tryon finished with eight of Philomath’s 16 kills and Brown had all 15 of the team’s assists. Other statistical leaders included three blocks apiece by senior Abigail Brown and junior Madison Juhl, 19 digs by senior Kori Galvan and two ace serves each by Abigail Brown and freshman Shaylee May.

PHS junior Ahnika Tryon had a team-high eight kills vs. the Cougars. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath (11-6 overall, 3-3 Oregon West) will get no breaks in the schedule with a tough tournament on the horizon.

“We have the Clearwater Classic this weekend, which is all 5A and 6A teams, so we’ll play better teams than this,” Hilberg said. “We’re a lot stronger of a mental team than what we showed tonight, so if they play positive and play up, they’ll play well.”

Following the tournament, the Warriors will play four more league games over the final two weeks of the regular season, including this coming Tuesday’s trip to Newport and a Senior Night match on Oct. 13 against North Marion.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.