By Robert Husseman • Sports Editor • 

McMinnville volleyball jumps out of gym, over Sprague

When The Furnace is alight and roaring, the energy was infectious.

McMinnville volleyball built that up in a big way Thursday night, the final regular-season home game for seniors Montanna Gubrud, Elizabeth Logsdon and Hayley Sparrow.

First, the Grizzlies took the court in red warmup jackets and pants of a 1980s Mac High vintage. Next, the Grizzlies enjoyed their Senior Night celebrations, also honoring Mareike VanderPuetten, a German exchange student playing with the junior varsity team. 

Finally, the Grizzlies beat the brakes off visiting Class 6A Greater Valley Conference foe Sprague, jumping over them into fifth place in the conference and settling comfortably within range for an OSAA Class 6A state play-in berth.

Six Mac players had at least four kills and the Grizzlies had nine service aces as a team during a 25-21, 25-20, 25-18 victory over the Olympians. 

"We really came together and I think it showed," Sparrow said. "We just had so much enthusiasm and were pumped for this game."

And how. The biggest revelation for McMinnville (11-12, 7-9 GVC) was playing with pace, allowing the momentum from points in its favor to blend seamlessly with the rest -- and to regain that momentum when Sprague (10-14, 7-9 GVC) won points.

"There wasn't a lot of slow play," Grizzlies coach Hayden Sweet said. "Even when we had bad passing we were still trying to push that ball and trying to push the speed. As our passing got better and better, the speed got faster and faster.

"I think the team notices that when our passing's good we're really dynamic. We had a lot of great hits in the middle; Kalina (Buhler) and Liz both had a ton of them. And then we got Nate (Natalie Sutton) on the right side just flying through. That just makes a huge difference because the defense doesn't know what to do. They can't just camp out in the middle."

Logsdon (five kills and two blocks) and Buhler (four kills) threatened the middle of the Olympians' defense effectively. On the outside, Kalli Dickey racked up a team-high 10 kills, Sutton finished with five kills, and Avari Ridgway added four kills to the Grizzlies' tally.

"We all just had a lot of fun," Logsdon said. "We needed that, especially senior night and the play-in and all that coming." 

McMinnville's service game was a powerful weapon against Sprague, which played well within points but made errors in serve receive. The Olympians led 17-13 in the second set before Ridgway and Gubrud served Mac into a 23-18 lead. Logsdon took a star turn in the third set, with the Grizzlies down 16-13; she had four service aces in a row as McMinnville discombobulated Sprague.

"It was actually pretty consistent tonight. It turned out well," Logsdon said. "I don't know -- I was just feeling it, to be honest."

Gubrud felt it, too. Sweet turned her loose as an outside hitter, and Mac's 5-foot-5 setter displayed a vertical leap that put the Grizzlies' boys basketball team to shame. The tongues of Gubrud's shoes appeared to touch the bottom of the net on her fourth kill of the evening, on match point, a fervent exclamation point to the action in front of the Furnace faithful.

After the game, Sparrow donned a sling on her right arm as she took postgame photos with teammates and friends. Her smile did not betray any sensation of pain or suffering.

"I went to dig one of Liz's kills and it hit my arm wrong," Sparrow said. "Might have broken it. Might just be a really bad sprain. We don't really know yet."

"Just before senior night," Logsdon said.

The practice before senior night, too," Sparrow replied.

"I'm a great best friend," Logsdon added with a laugh.

McMinnville, seeded No. 31 in Class 6A, will host No. 34 St. Mary's Academy of Portland Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in The Furnace. The Blues finished ninth in the nine-team Class 6A Three Rivers League with an 8-18 overall record (3-13 Three Rivers).

Sheridan 3, Westside Christian 2

SHERIDAN -- A Madison Samples ace and match-point kill served to finalize it: the Spartans, the second-place team in the Class 3A West Valley League, are headed to the 3A state playoffs.

"This is something that the girls have wanted all season long. Our eyes have been on the prize all season," Sheridan coach Jessica Todd said. "This is our big goal. For them to realize that dream, it’s just such an amazing thing. I feel so blessed with the girls that I’ve got. I just feel like I’m so lucky to be coaching them. They’re an incredible group of girls."

 Natalia Rentsch led the Spartans with 18 kills and Sam Mack contributed 10 kills as Sheridan survived its wild five-set match with Westside Christian, 25-18, 25-17, 22-25, 22-25, 20-18, on Thursday night. 

Ashley Aponte had six kills for the Spartans (16-5, 10-4 WVL) and libero Paighton Samples racked up 29 digs.

"We pretty much dug it all night," Todd said. "We were pretty much back and forth the entire time.

"It really could have gone either way. Westside Christian played an amazing, amazing match. Absolutely incredible."

Sheridan, the No. 2 seed in the WVL, will played No. 1 Santiam Christian Saturday at 2 p.m. in Adair Village in a 3A state playoff seeding game.

Dayton 3, Willamina 1

DAYTON -- Thanks to a strong defensive effort, Dayton's chance at obtaining a Class 3A state playoff berth live to see Saturday.

Teddi Hop had 15 kills, 45 digs and five service aces and Sierra Bowlin had 36 digs as the No. 4-seeded Pirates dispatched Class 3A West Valley League foe Willamina, 25-12, 25-22, 20-25, 25-11, Thursday evening at Dayton High School.

Shawnie Spink had 10 kills and 25 digs for Dayton (12-9, 8-6 WVL), while Malina Ray contributed eight kills and 30 digs.

The Pirates play Westside Christian in an elimination game Saturday at noon in Adair Village. The winner advances to the 3A state playoffs.

The Bulldogs, seeded fifth in the WVL, conclude their season with a 9-12 record (7-7 WVL).

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