Philomath senior Ahnika Tryon goes high in the middle for a hit against Stayton Thursday night. Tryon was one of four players honored on Senior Night, the others being Madison Juhl, Clara Stanley and Ava Theurer. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

A veteran of Philomath volleyball, senior Madison Juhl knows she needs to talk things up a little more on the court. In the team’s four-set Senior Night victory over Cascade Thursday, she took a strong step forward with that part of her game.

“It’s something I’ve been working on,” Juhl said with a smile following the 25-18, 21-25, 25-20, 25-13 win over the Eagles to close out the regular season. “I’m usually pretty quiet on the court just because I don’t know what I’m supposed to say. But I tried really hard to talk out there.”

PHS coach Autumn Hilberg mentioned Juhl’s contributions.

“I thought Maddy Juhl really started talking and was super vocal at the net,” Hilberg said. “And she blocked well and she read really well.”

In the end, the on-floor talk appears to have played a role in the victory. Philomath played flat over the first two sets and needed to flip a mental switch.

“To close this out those last couple of sets, we really worked on our energy and just staying hyped over everything,” Juhl said. “Even if a ball was hit out, it was like ‘nice set’ and ‘good up’ — just trying to encourage each other and move past all the negative to get to the positive.”

Juhl was one of four seniors recognized before the match — the others being Clara Stanley, Ava Theurer and Ahnika Tryon.

Said Hilberg, “I think the seniors came out and played their hearts out and the team hyped them up the whole time.”

Philomath junior Hannah Bennett makes a play on the ball during the team’s Thursday night victory over Stayton. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Philomath qualifies for the state playoffs as the No. 2 team out of the Oregon West Conference. The Warriors don’t know just yet who they might be playing in the first round. Play-in matches — a group of eight teams that includes Stayton and Sweet Home —  will be played early next week.

With the first round of playoffs not happening until Oct. 28, the Warriors could be looking at a nine-day break from competition. It’s possible that an extra match will be arranged next week to fill in the competitive gap.

Juhl sees no problems with that long of a break.

“I think it will also be good just so we can really work on getting down specific things and really working to improve where we’re a little bit weaker,” Juhl said.

Hilberg said the key to any success Philomath has in the playoffs will come down to consistency.

Philomath senior Clara Stanley hits the ball over a Stayton player during Thursday night’s four-set win. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

On the court Thursday against Stayton, Philomath led by as many as 10 points in the first set only to see the opponent make things interesting. The Eagles went on a 10-2 run after trailing 18-8 to push the Warriors late in the set. But Philomath regrouped and won the final five points.

In the second set, the two teams battled back and forth throughout. With the set tied, 20-20, the momentum pendulum swung in Stayton’s favor on a couple of serves. First, Philomath served into the net to give Stayton its 21st point and the Eagles followed with an ace by junior Kayla Neal Welke that fell just inside the back line. Stayton led 22-20 at that point and eventually clinched the set on a hit by senior Molly Schotthoeffer.

Stayton’s defense gave the Warriors fits in the early going.

“You can play a really tough defense and that’s something we struggled against all year — teams that play quick defense,” Hilberg said. “But as soon as we brought our energy up, we didn’t look back.”

Philomath’s Ashleigh Brown sets the ball for a teammate during Thursday’s victory. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Philomath built a safe lead in the third set and held Stayton from making any serious runs. The Warriors led 5-1 early with junior Hannah Bennett at the service line. The Eagles stuck around and were trailing at one point only 18-15 before Philomath started to close it out.

Stayton had a few issues such as net violations and poor passing to help the Warriors’ cause but Philomath created its share of points as well. Junior Kynlee Albin had a key hit for a 23-18 lead. And on the team’s  24th point, Tryon had a solid hit that was returned wide by the Eagles. The set-clinching point came on a Stayton attempt into the net.

Philomath rolled in the fifth set with a healthy lead throughout. Tryon and junior Ashleigh Brown each had five-point runs while serving.

On the final stat sheet, freshman Nora Stanley had a team-high 10 kills. Clara Stanley had 16 digs and three blocks. Brown finished with 21 assists. Sophomore Shaylee May had three of the team’s 10 aces.

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.