Marcus Larson/News-Register##
WIllamina s Brooke France smashes one of her 12 kills during the Bulldogs  four-set victory over Westside Christian.
Marcus Larson/News-Register## WIllamina's Brooke France smashes one of her 12 kills during the Bulldogs' four-set victory over Westside Christian.
By Logan Brandon • Logan Brandon • 

Bulldogs earn third place with gutsy four-setter against Eagles

WILLAMINA – With a win ensuring third place in the Class 3A West Valley League, the Bulldogs’ volleyball team persevered through a first set loss to ultimately capture a gutsy 18-25, 25-16, 25-21, 25-22 victory over Westside Christian tonight on Willamina’s home court.

Willamina finishes the regular season 8-6 in the conference, a game up of Sheridan, and will play Saturday against the winner of the Spartans/Westside Christian league playoff Thursday.

The Eagles appeared sufficiently motivated during the initial game. Their dangerous outside hitters led by Kendra Zuckerman let loose a flurry of spikes to wear down the Bulldog defense. Willamina’s Brooke France patrolled the net to keep her team in contention, as she tallied five kills and a block in the opener.

However, a batch of hitting errors stifled Willamina late in the set, and Westside Christian capitalized with the 25-18 win.

The second set became a completely different story. Willamina displayed impressive energy and raced to a 7-0 lead courtesy of France’s laser down the line. The Eagles embarked on a 4-0 run, but Bulldog libero Taryn Hunt blasted a kill from the backline to halt the skid.

Willamina then kept the Eagles at arm’s length for the remainder of the set, maintaining leads of three and four points before eventually capturing the 25-16 result on Andrea Otter’s kill off a block attempt.

In full possession of momentum and the backing of an enthusiastic home crowd, the Bulldogs wouldn’t be denied in the third.

After Westside Christian nabbed an 12-11 lead, the Willamina defense stepped up. Hunt appeared everywhere on the court, digging balls which had no business staying in the air. Her one-armed stab dig preserved a rally, and led to an Eagle hitting error, subsequently handing the home team a 13-12 edge.

Just as they did in the second, the ‘Dogs protected small scoring advantages of two and three points, limiting the visitors of any opportunities to tie or take the lead. Bethany Berry concluded the 25-21 triumph by finding the open court on a kill from the backline.

Behind 2-1, and sensing third place slipping away, the Eagles desperately clawed for the fourth set. They snatched an initial lead at 11-8 on an ace, then went up 15-14 on a net infraction.

However, the Bulldogs never faltered late in the contest. Otter’s kill down the middle capped a 5-1 mini-run which delivered a 19-16 lead. Westside Christian retaliated with a 4-1 stretch, knotting the set at 20. After a Bulldog hitting error, head coach Brent Murrell called timeout with his team trailing 21-20.

Willamina recaptured the advantage one final time at 23-22 as Maddy Konovalov smashed her 12th kill of the night. After a tip kill and a net violation, Willamina celebrated.

Leading the ‘Dogs to the third-place finish were France (12 kills, seven blocks), Konovalov (12 kills), Berry (11 kills, four blocks) and Otter (nine kills, ace). Hunt’s defense should also be commended for sustaining multiple Willamina rallies.

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