Junior Ahnika Tryon goes high for the ball during Tuesday's win over Junction City. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

While the other five schools in the Oregon West started their regular seasons five to eight days earlier, Philomath High’s volleyball team didn’t have an opportunity to take the floor until Tuesday night. Hosting a doubleheader in the home gym, the Warriors appeared to be a team itching to face competition while posting straight-set victories over Gladstone and Junction City.

With players like Clara Stanley recording kills from the left side, Ahnika Tryon stuffing the opponent’s hits in the middle and Ashleigh Brown setting up her teammates, the Warriors were clicking on all cylinders.

“That’s a great start — it makes it look easy, it makes coaching look easy. I told them I actually have more fun when I get to coach,” first-year coach Autumn Hilberg laughed. “When they make plays so well, I don’t really have much coaching to do.”

The more competitive of the two matches came in the nightcap with Philomath defeating Junction City 25-13, 25-21 and 25-8. The Warriors flexed their volleyball muscle early on by opening the match on a 9-0 run with Ashleigh Brown serving. Stanley got to work immediately with effective hitting on three of the first four points and the Warriors took advantage of Junction City’s struggles with passing, serve receive and hitting accuracy.

“I was really impressed with Ashleigh setting and how she kept everything in system, even the balls that were off the net,” Hilberg said. “Clara hit really well on the outside and I think the leadership of Abigail (Brown) came through as well. And Kori (Galvan) played the best I’ve seen her play at the libero position — she really earned that spot.”

Senior Kori Galvan passes the ball during the third set. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Following Philomath’s quick start, Junction City (1-5) settled down and effectively battled the Warriors evenly for several points. But the Warriors were never in danger of losing the lead and finished the set by scoring the final five points — the clincher coming on a Tigers hit that landed long.

Another quick start followed in the second set with Ashleigh Brown again showing skill at the service line. Abigail Brown’s block on the second point and hit on the third point were among the points scored in a 5-0 run. Junction City persevered, however, and rallied back to within 6-5. Philomath again tried to pull away and led 11-5 following a Galvan ace serve but the visitors had answers and tied the set, 12-12.

Still, the Warriors never trailed and broke the tie on the next point when Junction City served long. Madison Juhl followed with back-to-back hits for points and Philomath survived its toughest stretch of the evening.

“It’s good for them to practice being in situations where they’re down or they’re playing poorly that puts them at a disadvantage and working through that,” Hilberg said. “I knew they’d come out of it — we’ve done it before.”

Junction City had a few players that could do damage primarily on the left side hitting and at the service line. But Philomath had too much firepower and won the set on a Stanley kill.

Ashleigh Brown served 17 aces in the two matches combined Tuesday. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

In the third set, Philomath’s early-start fortunes continued with another 5-0 lead before the Tigers could recover. But this time, the visitors were not able to claw back in it and Philomath dominated the rest of the way. The final six points were all scored by the Warriors with Ashleigh Brown and Stanley hitting and Ava Theurer serving, a run that included an ace.

The match ended on a Junction City hit attempt that sailed long.

Stanley finished with a team-high 13 kills and Tryon had three blocks at the net. Ashleigh Brown ended up with 19 set assists and five ace serves and Stanley came up with 14 digs on defense.

In the early match, Philomath rolled over winless Gladstone, 25-8, 25-17 and 25-16.

“We came out really strong … everyone got on the court and everyone played really well,” Hilberg said.

In that one, Ashleigh Brown had 12 aces and 12 sets, Stanley recorded 10 kills, Galvan finished with nine digs and Juhl had two blocks. The opponent struggled with unforced errors in the match.

Philomath will not see action again until Sept. 17 with a trip to a tournament at Sisters. Then the team moves on to conference play with a Sept. 20 jaunt over to Cascade before returning home on Sept. 22 to face Newport.

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

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.