Philomath's volleyball team celebrates after scoring the match-winning point on Tuesday night against Sweet Home. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

For the first time in seven years, one month and 15 days, Philomath High defeated Sweet Home in volleyball. The Warriors, playing on their home court, took out the Huskies in four sets, 25-22, 22-25, 25-14 and 25-21.

“I am very excited and happy for everyone,” said senior Kori Galvan, who was in the fifth grade the last time the Warriors beat the Huskies. “It was our first time beating Sweet Home in a while and I’m just very proud of everyone and how they played.”

The Huskies had won nine straight over the Warriors — including seven times in league play since Sweet Home was reassigned to the Oregon West Conference in 2018. One of those losses against the Huskies came in the state semifinals in 2019.

Earlier this season on Sept. 29, Sweet Home beat Philomath in four sets. So what was different this time around?

“Shaylee (May) stepped up really big on the outside,” PHS coach Autumn Hilberg said. “I think that’s what we lacked last time against them — that second outside (hitter). She’s run into that spot a lot.”

May had seen limited time on varsity when the two schools played the first time. Just a freshman, May started out on junior varsity but soon moved up after junior outside hitter Clara Stanley was lost to a season-ending injury.

Philomath freshman Shaylee May goes for a kill against Sweet Home on Tuesday night. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath and Sweet Home played a fairly clean match on Tuesday with several long rallies a part of the action.

“We’ll always make mistakes — the little ones that we wish we didn’t make,” Hilberg said. “But volleyball is a game of errors and whichever team makes less ends up winning. I thought we made a lot less errors tonight.”

The two teams battled back and forth through the entire first set. The Warriors led 14-10 at one point but Sweet Home had a strong stretch and eventually took the lead, 21-20. Two points later, Philomath took a 22-21 lead on a hit by May. Senior Abigail Brown had point-producing hits on the 23rd point and the set-clinching 25th point.

PHS junior Ahnika Tryon passes during Tuesday night’s win. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Asked what she might’ve noticed about this Philomath victory compared to the first meeting between the two schools, Galvan indicated that she sensed a little extra in the air while playing on the home court.

“I don’t know if it was the student section … but I think we were playing with more energy and playing for each other,” Galvan said. “I think it just went a lot better towards the end of the game.”

In the second set, Philomath trailed the whole way but rallied late to tie it up, 20-20, on a Brown ace. A couple of Warriors’ unforced errors helped the Huskies along down the stretch.

Philomath had a strong start to the third set with the first four points scored by the Warriors — one of those being an Ashleigh Brown ace that hit the net and fell over it. The Huskies stuck around, however, and even took an 11-10 lead.

The Warriors started to pull away with junior Ahnika Tryon at the service line. Following a side-out to tie the set at 11-11 on an Abigail Brown hit, Philomath scored four straight to regain a healthy advantage. Sweet Home got back to within two points at 16-14 but the Warriors finished strong by scoring nine straight with Abigail Brown serving to clinch the set.

PHS sophomore Madison Provance hits the ball over vs. the Huskies. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Sweet Home got off to a fairly good start in the fourth set but could not pull away from the Warriors. Philomath took its first lead of the set at 11-10 when a Sweet Home hit sailed beyond the end line. The Warriors never trailed again and rolled to take the match.

Abigail Brown ended up with seven of the team’s 10 aces and also had the team high for kills with 21. Junior Madison Juhl had five of the team’s seven blocks. Tryon had a team-high 31 digs and Ashleigh Brown had 51 assists.

Philomath is positioning itself for the postseason and will be motivated to defeat Stayton on Thursday in the regular-season finale. The Warriors beat the Eagles in straight sets when they played on Oct. 3.

The hope for Philomath is to finish high enough in the final rankings to host a play-in match.

Said Galvan, “I don’t want this season to end. It’s my last year, so I want it to last as long as it can.”

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.