PHS senior co-captain Ahnika Tryon celebrates a point during Tuesday night’s three-set sweep over Newport. Tryon moved to middle against the Cubs and saw success with four blocks. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

In danger of losing the opening set Tuesday night against Newport, the Philomath High School volleyball team found a way to battle back and set the tone for the evening in what would end up as a 26-24, 25-17, 25-16 victory.

Leading 24-22, the visiting Cubs thought they had clinched the first set when a hit by PHS junior Kynlee Albin landed wide. But Newport was whistled for a net violation and the Warriors stayed alive. Philomath (9-7 overall, 5-2 Oregon West) took over from there and tied it on an Albin block, took the lead on a double-hit violation and won on a Newport hit attempt that sailed long.

“I think we connect good as a team,” senior co-captain Ahnika Tryon said following the team’s second win over Newport this season. “There’s not a lot of conflict between us so I think that makes us closer as a team, especially when we’re switching around with positions and rotations. We know we have each other’s backs.”

In both the second and third sets, Newport and Philomath played close through the first 20 to 22 points before the Warriors would find their footing and pull away. The home team’s fire power, presence at the net and solid decisions overcame some of the mistakes seen early in those sets.

“We changed our lineup this week and there can always be some confusion and hesitancy on that,” PHS coach Autumn Hilberg said. “But I thought we pulled it together really well and got comfortable with each other.

One of those changes involved Tryon moving to middle blocker.

PHS senior Clara Stanley goes up against Newport senior Caliyah Covington at the net Tuesday night. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“We changed up the lineup a bit so I think we were getting used to that but once we found the groove, I think we connected,” Tryon said. “I’ve been playing a lot of positions this year.”

The Warriors are in their second trip through the league and Newport went down in straight sets on its own floor back in September.

“I think just knowing that we can sweep them, we could execute and play better,” Tryon said when asked if any self-motivation was needed against a team Philomath had beaten soundly the first time. “I mean, it’s confidence going in and knowing that we can do it.”

Hilberg said Newport (6-11, 2-5) was a quality opponent.

“They’re up and coming and haven’t been this good in a lot of years so we knew we couldn’t look past them,” Hilberg said.

Retired band teacher Diane Crocker poses for a photo with PHS seniors, from left, Ava Theurer, Madison Juhl, Ahnika Tryon and Clara Stanley. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The match was dubbed “Battle For the Bow” as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month activities. Hilberg and Newport coach Megan Smallwood came up with the idea.

“Megan and I are really good friends and I know their athletic director and we’ve always wanted to do some sort of rivalry match but make it bigger than us,” Hilberg said.

Prior to the match, the team recognized retired educator Diane Crocker, who beat cancer 18 years ago.

Said Tryon, “It was really sweet … she was my band teacher.”

The Warriors are scheduled to play at 6 p.m. Thursday at North Marion.

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.