PHS junior Ava Theurer hits past Newport's Natalie Paranto during Thursday night's 3-0 Warriors sweep. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath High volleyball team answered the call on Thursday night to sweep Newport out of its home gymnasium. Despite losing one of its top players to an injury last weekend during a tournament and falling in straight sets two days earlier at Cascade, the Warriors put together a solid performance to put another notch in the win column.

“We played really hard against Cascade and I think we did really well tonight in beating Newport,” PHS senior co-captain Kori Galvan said after the 25-18, 25-14, 25-9 victory.

Said head coach Autumn Hilberg, “It was really important to come back and play with energy. They came back mentally tough and played with a lot of confidence.”

Senior right side Abigail Brown had an exceptional all-around performance at the net with 12 kills and six blocks as well as at the service line with 10 of the team’s 17 aces. 

The Warriors had a noticeable advantage serving, especially in the third set. In fact, Philomath scored 12 straight points during one dominant stretch with eight of those coming on balls that Newport’s serve-receive unit couldn’t handle. Brown served the first 10 of those points and junior Lorelei Schell substituted in and kept it going.

“Our serve’s getting tougher and tougher and players go back there and they all work on that tough serve every practice,” Hillberg said, “so that part’s coming along.”

Philomath senior Abigail Brown served 10 aces against the Cubs. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath had a slow start in the first set by losing four of the first five points. The Warriors reeled off nine straight, however, to erase any doubts about how this evening was going to turn out. Brown had an impact early and junior Madison Juhl did some positive things at the net during the run.

Newport (0-4 overall, 0-2 Oregon West) fought back to within 10-9 but the Warriors answered and steadily pulled away over the rest of the set, the clinching point coming on a Newport serve that sailed long.

In the second set, Philomath held leads of 6-1 and 10-2 in the early going with unforced errors hurting the visiting squad. The Warriors held a safe lead throughout and finishing off the Cubs by scoring the last five points — a stretch that included effective hitting by Brown and junior Ava Theurer.

The serving advantage highlighted Philomath’s performance in the third set.

PHS junior Ahnika Tryon had a team-high 18 digs in the win and sophomore setter Ashleigh Brown was good for 22 assists.

The Warriors (5-1, 1-1) have been working through the loss of junior hitter Clara Stanley to injury. The team wore a patch displaying her No. 7 on their uniforms.

“We have been trying to play for her … it was really heartbreaking that she couldn’t play with us this season,” Galvan said.

Sophomore Ashleigh Brown sets the ball for a teammate. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath will need to play at its highest level to remain competitive in the traditionally-tough Oregon West Conference. 

“I think we attack and we set pretty well and we just have to put the ball away and get kills but that’s something we struggle at and we’re working on every day in practice,” Hilberg said when asked to identify a key to success through the conference season.

Philomath will play in a tournament again this weekend with a trip to North Marion. Hilberg sees it as an opportunity to try some new things on the court.

“We might try a couple new things and try to find a rhythm,” Hilberg said. “We had a really good rhythm at the beginning of the season and we had the injury and we need to find it again.

Following the tournament, Philomath will then get back into conference play with back-to-back road trips — Tuesday at North Marion and Thursday at Sweet Home.

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.