Sage Kramer
PHS junior Sage Kramer goes for the kill Wednesday night against Stayton. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

It’s tough when volleyball teams can’t find a rhythm at the service line. Balls that sail beyond the end line or straight into the net give the opponent easy points. And they can add up to the point that it means the difference between winning and losing.

In Wednesday night’s match against Stayton, the Warriors experienced serving struggles in a five-set loss in the Philomath High School gym. Coach Denee Newton said it’s an area that the team needs to work on.

“What’s new for us that I feel like hasn’t been a consistent issue is our serving — it’s really inconsistent; we miss a lot of serves,” Newton said after Stayton took a 16-26, 26-24, 20-25, 28-26, 15-11 win. “We missed 15 serves tonight and I just think those are crucial points. You can’t lose the serve game and win a match.”

In a fitting conclusion to the evening, Stayton won the match on a Philomath serve that landed long. The Warriors had an 86.6 serve percentage for the match.

“It’s interesting because we took Cascade to five and missed 21 (serves), so that speaks to their ability and what they could be doing,” Newton said. “But I think we have to get control of that part of the game. We have to win the serve game if we’re going to get over the hump.”

Stayton defeated Philomath in four sets on March 15, which represented the Warriors’ season opener. Newton said the team played a lot better than the first time around.

“I think our volleyball IQ is getting to where we would be if we were just finishing up preseason and we’d be going into a tournament where we could work out a lot of stuff,” Newton said. “This is work right now, that’s what we’re considering this, preseason and we’re going to work hard over the summer and hopefully get a little bit more ball control there.”

Abigail Brown
Philomath High sophomore Abigail Brown hits the ball past Stayton’s Kassidy Strand during Wednesday night’s match. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath looked like the better team for good stretches of the evening, including in the first set when the Warriors vaulted out to a 12-4 lead. The Eagles made a bit of a run to trail by just four points at 20-16 but Philomath regained its composure and benefitted from the hitting of Ashlynn Barron and Maddie Fields for late points.

In the second set, Philomath and Stayton battled back and forth early but the Eagles started to create a cushion of four- to five-point leads. Stayton was up 23-19 at one point before the Warriors rallied for five straight to take a 24-23 lead — a hit by Laura Noble putting Philomath on top.

But the momentum ended right there and Stayton scored the next three points to take the set. A serve that went long, a mis-hit on a pass and a hit that sailed wide gave Stayton the set.

Philomath led 4-0 to open the third set and never trailed to take a 25-20 set win and 2-1 lead in the match.

The fourth set turned into a marathon. Both teams battled back and forth early with a few lead changes before Philomath built a 13-9 lead. Stayton stayed within striking distance, however, and scored seven straight points to turn a 17-15 deficit into a 22-17 lead. After Philomath broke the run, Stayton scored two more to reach set point, 24-18.

But the Warriors showed that they could perform under pressure and scored six straight points to tie the set, 24-24. The two teams traded points and then Stayton closed it out, 28-26.

Stayton got off to a good start in the fifth set with a 4-0 lead. Philomath rallied to tie the set at 10-10 following a five-point run that included a couple of key kills by Sage Kramer. But the momentum slipped away and the Eagles scored five of the next six points to take the set and match.

Ashlynn Barron
Philomath junior Ashlynn Barron serves against Stayton on Wednesday night. The Warriors struggled from the service line in the five-set loss. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Kramer and Fields had 20 and 19 kills, respectively, in the match. Barron had a solo block and five ace serves. Taylor Roe finished with 32 digs and Reagan Larson had 27 set assists.

The team is in a busy stretch to end the season. Newton believes the uncertainty of the schedule has taken a toll.

“We’re adding matches still, matches are getting canceled, things are getting moved around, times are being changed,” she said. “So it’s a lot of waiting and uncertainty without a lot of time to Zen out and focus. I think that might be impacting just their routines.”

In fact, the serving game is all about routine, she added.

“We’ve had a very limited number of practices to try to focus around serving,” Newton said. “I think we serve a ton, but it’s the single thing that I think would turn this around … if we can take back control of our serving game.”

Philomath (1-5) will play at home again on Friday with Cascade paying a visit. The Warriors have added a match for April 7 at South Albany to end the season.

Stayton 3, Philomath 2
Wednesday, March 31, at Philomath High School
Stayton (7-4)1626202815
Philomath (1-5)2524252611
Kills: Sage Kramer 20, Maddie Fields 19, Abigail Brown 5, Laura Noble 4, Ashlynn Barron 4, Reagan Larson 2.
Aces: Ashlynn Barron 5, Reagan Larson 4, Sage Kramer 3, Taylor Roe 1, Maddie Fields 1.
Solo Blocks: Ashlynn Barron 1.
Block Assists: Reagan Larson 2, Abigail Brown 2, Laura Noble 1, Ashlynn Barron 1.
Assists: Reagan Larson 27, Laura Noble 20, Taylor Roe 4, Sage Kramer 2.
Digs: Taylor Roe 32, Sage Kramer 15, Maddie Fields 14, Laura Noble 11, Reagan Larson 7, Ashlynn Barron 4, Abigail Brown 3.

Philomath 2, Stayton 1
Wednesday, March 31, at Philomath High School
Philomath’s JV records goes to 3-3 on the season. … Ahnika Tryon led the team in hitting with 13 kills. … Clara Stanley had four of the team’s six ace serves. … Lorelei Schell finished with 13 set assists. … Alex Tipsword had 19 digs on defense. … Melanie Baldwin had a solo block. … The JV team is scheduled to play at 4:30 p.m. Friday at home vs. Cascade. … The JV2 team also played Wednesday against Stayton and won in two sets.

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