With a chance to move up to third place in the Class 2A Northwest League volleyball standings, the Nestucca High Lady Bobcats were hoping to get a win over the Gaston Greyhounds in a contest with crucial district playoff implications.
The Bobcats, guided by coach Amy Gianella, came into the important final regular season road game with the momentum of a six-game Northwest League win streak. The Bobcats (6-2 NWL, 7-9 overall) came close to accomplishing their goal too as they battled the Greyhounds in an evenly played match.
However, the No. 16 ranked Greyhounds (7-0, NWL, 11-5 overall) showed that they deserve their top-20 ranking as they were able to hold on for a 3-0 win over the No. 26 ranked Bobcats Monday at Gaston High School. The Bobcats, guided by fifth-year coach Amy Gianella, are hoping to bounce back from the loss in their next contest when they meet the No. 7 ranked Vernonia Loggers (7-0 NWL, 15-4 overall) in a 2:30 p.m. home game Saturday at Nestucca High School.
"We have a couple of injuries that we're trying to work through and the girls really gave it their best shot while playing on the road against a very good Gaston team," said Gianella. "We'll see them in a couple of weeks and we'll be ready to play better against them (Gaston) at home. We're right behind them in the league standings (fourth place) and I just think that they wanted to show that they were a little better than us tonight and that's what they did. We'll probably play Gaston again in the Northwest League District playoffs too."
Nestucca started strong in the first set, led by senior outside hitter Olivia Leslie. A kill by Leslie, who is Nestucca's only senior, lifted Nestucca in front 2-1 at the outset of the match. Following a 2-2 tie, Gaston had an 8-1 rally to build a 10-3 advantage. The Greyhounds, a more experienced team with four seniors, then extended the margin to double digits at 17-7.
"I think that Gaston had a little bit of experience advantage with having more seniors," said Gianella. "We've been playing pretty well recently and I'm very proud of our team. I don't like playing on Monday's though. Our other league loss against Portland Christian earlier this season was also on a Monday, so it's not our favorite day to play on. We're a young team with two freshmen and two sophomores, so we're still developing and we'll be very good in a couple of years."
Nestucca came charging back and got a sideout to make it 17-8. Sophmore outside hitter Nia Chatelain then served six straight service points, including an ace and Nestucca trimmed the margin to 17-14. It was the first ever varsity game that Chatelain had played in. The two evenly matched squads then traded points as Nestucca was still within striking distance, trailing 23-20. Gaston then scored the final two points to hold on for a close 25-20 first set victory.
Nestucca again came out with a strong effort in the second set, which included three early deadlocks. Following the final tie score at 3-3, Gaston went on an 8-1 run to take an 11-4 lead and force a Bobcat timeout.
The Greyhound's momentum continued though as they had a 7-2 offensive burst to take a double digit 18-6 lead. Gaston extended it's lead and remained in front for a 25-12 win.
Nestucca played with a higher energy level in the third set while hoping to get a win and avoid a sweep. The Bobcats almost did that too as they played outstanding from start-to-finish in a match that included four lead changes and 10 tie scores.
Following a 2-2 deadlock, Nestucca scored three straight, including a kill to the floor by junior middle blocker Alex Siler kill, for a 5-2 lead. A Nestucca 3-1 run, capped by an ace served by Leslie, lifted the Bobcats in front 8-3.
Gaston responded with a 6-1 rally, knotting the score 9-9 and forcing a Nestucca timeout. The seesaw battle then had six consecutive tie scores and it was 15-15. Nestucca then seemed to take control while playing with a high intensity level.
Following a sideout that put Nestucca up 16-15, Leslie then served three straight aces from the service line, putting the Bobcats up 19-15 and it seemed a victory was within their grasp.
The momentum quickly shifted though as Gaston outscored Nestucca 7-3, tying it at 22-22 and forcing a Bobcat timeout. Gaston then was able to score some clutch key points, led by 6-foot-2 sophomore Mackenzie Berger, whose match winning kill provided the Greyhounds with a come-from-behind 25-23 victory.
Following Saturday's match versus Vernonia, Nestucca will then have just two remaining regular season home games on the schedule. The Bobcats face the winless Mannahouse Christian Academy Lions (0-9 NWL, 0-16) Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m., followed by their final game Oct. 19 versus Gaston at 3 p.m.
Nestucca will then follow the regular season in the upcoming Northwest League District Playoffs on Oct. 26. The Bobcats are hoping to advance from the district playoffs and qualify for the state playoffs for the first time since 2010. The OnPoint Community Credit Union OSAA Class 2A state playoffs begin Nov. 2.