Abigail Brown, Ashlynn Barron
Philomath’s Abigail Brown (14) and Ashlynn Barron (3) go up for a block against Sweet Home’s Bailee Hartsook. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Since the 2018 season when the Oregon School Activities Association reassigned Sweet Home to the Oregon West Conference, the Huskies have dominated in volleyball — 23-1 in league and 42-7 overall.

Little has changed this season with Sweet Home again among the best, off to an 8-1 start heading into Monday night’s match at Philomath. In other words, the Huskies are a tough team to beat.

The Warriors traded punches with the Huskies as the midway point of the first set approached with Philomath leading 11-8. Sage Kramer, Maddie Fields, Ashlynn Barron and Reagan Larson played key roles over that early stretch.

“I think that in practice, it matters how we play there, too, and I think that we just have to have a good headspace for it,” Barron said about how the team gets ready for an opponent like Sweet Home. “We can’t go into it thinking we’re going to lose. I don’t know, I think we had pretty good energy.”

Sweet Home countered from that early deficit and reeled off five straight points and never trailed the rest of the night with the Huskies winning in straight sets, 25-18, 25-15 and 25-11.

Juleia Dooley, who coached the varsity for the third straight match with head coach Denee Newton sidelined, said the team just tries to stick to fundamentals in such matches.

“We just try and remember our principles and everything that we want to achieve with our goals,” she said, “but also keeping our arms straight and simple, all of the physical things that we can do. … Sometimes we get beat but sometimes there’s always just room for improvement.”

Sage Kramer
Philomath High junior Sage Kramer hits the ball past Sweet Home defenders. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Sweet Home came at the Warriors with big hitters and plenty of experience with eight seniors on the roster. Philomath counters with a couple of capable hitters of their own in Kramer and Fields.

“They can throw the ball down … we just couldn’t get passing today,” Dooley said.

Against the Huskies, Philomath tried to fight through issues involving passing, serving and on the serve receive, although Dooley said the Warriors didn’t do too bad in that area based on the stat sheet.

“Compared to the first game of the season, this is a big change,” Barron said. “At the beginning of the season, we probably wouldn’t have gotten that close in any of the sets, so I think we’ve seen a lot of progress.”

Laura Noble
PHS junior Laura Noble battles at the net in Monday night’s match against Sweet Home. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Sweet Home never trailed in the second and third sets. In the final set, the Warriors started to make things interesting after a Kramer kill got the team to within 12-8 of the Husky lead. But the visitors regained their composure, fought off the PHS push and outscored the Warriors 13-3 the rest of the way.

Fields and Kramer each had eight kills for the Warriors. Laura Noble had 20 set assists and Taylor Roe finished with eight digs.

Philomath (1-4) is in the midst of a very busy stretch while playing catch-up with the rest of the league. The Warriors play five matches in nine days.

“We definitely started way later than everyone else,” said Barron, a reference to the Warriors not being able to open the season on time with Benton County in an extreme COVID-19 risk level. “I think the other teams had like six games before we even started. We’re really happy to get to play but it’s definitely been fast.”

The Warriors will play twice more at home this week with a Wednesday match against Stayton and a Friday match versus Cascade. The regular season ends April 5 with a trip to Pleasant Hill.

Sweet Home 3, Philomath 0
Monday, March 29, at Philomath High School
Sweet Home (9-1)252525
Philomath (1-4)181511
Kills: Maddie Fields 8, Sage Kramer 8, Ashlynn Barron 4, Laura Noble 1, Taylor Roe 1.
Aces: Sage Kramer 1.
Block Assists: Ashlynn Barron 2, Abigail Brown 1, Sage Kramer 1
Assists: Laura Noble 20, Abigail Brown 2, Taylor Roe 1, Reagan Larson 1.
Digs: Taylor Roe 8, Laura Noble 6, Ashlynn Barron 5, Abigail Brown 4, Sage Kramer 4, Maddie Fields 3.

Sweet Home 2, Philomath 1
Monday, March 29, at Philomath High School
Sweet Home202525
Philomath’s JV records goes to 2-3 on the season. … Ahnika Tryon had a team-high nine kills. Mackenzie Hiner had eight and Melanie Baldwin had five. … The team had 10 ace serves with four by Kori Galvan and two each by Lorelei Schell and Clara Stanley. … Schell collected 16 set assists. … Three PHS players were in double digits for digs with Tryon’s 16, Stanley’s 15 and Alex Tipsword’s 10. … Tryon had two solo blocks. … The JV team is scheduled to play at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at home vs. Stayton. … The JV2 team also played Monday against Sweet Home and lost two of three sets.

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