By Robert Husseman • Sports Editor • 

WVL showdown goes to the 'Dogs

Marcus Larson/News-RegisterKyra Toney of Willamina, left, goes up to block Amity’s Emily Hampton.

With Willamina volleyball ahead two games to one and 16-11 in points over Amity on Tuesday night, Devon Stackhouse took her turn serving.

The Bulldogs’ senior setter approached the service line like a baseball closer stares down opposing batters – calm and confident. Stackhouse kept her serve with two hitting errors by the Warriors, then fired off three aces in a row.

“Once Devon got back in the second round of service (in the fourth game), I felt like we put it away,” Willamina coach Carrie Zimbrick said. “The girls got their confidence back.”

Indeed, the Bulldogs’ fourth-game lead ballooned to 21-11, and before long the match belonged to Willamina – a 25-16, 25-18, 21-25, 25-14 triumph in the Class 3A West Valley League game at Amity High School.

Whitney Anderson recorded 10 kills in what Zimbrick called “the game of her life” for the Bulldogs, and Kyra Toney added seven kills. Perhaps Willamina’s best offense was Stackhouse’s right arm – she had nine service aces against Amity, along with 28 assists.

“Devon was serving wicked,” Zimbrick said. “She is a hustler. She’s a very confident player.”

The Bulldogs (4-1 overall, 4-0 West Valley League) had every reason to be confident after the first two sets.

Willamina and Amity (3-2 overall, 3-1 West Valley League) were tied at 11 in the first game when the Bulldogs scored eight straight points, benefiting from two service aces by sophomore Kasey Anderson and two kills by Whitney Anderson.

In the second game, Stackhouse notched a kill on the first point and added three service aces as Willamina raced out to a 9-0 lead.

Volleyball being a game of runs, the Warriors cut their deficit to 12-8 over the next 11 points. That was as close as they would get in the game.

“We took a little while to get warmed up,” Amity coach Kimi Romney said. “It’s a trend we have: We used the first two games to test our opposition. That’s our M.O.”

Also part of the Warriors’ M.O.: Providing heavy resistance in the third game.

Amity and Willamina went back and forth with the game tied at 21 before the Warriors rattled off four straight points on sophomore Monica Eichler’s serve to win. Senior middle hitter Delaney Cruz, Amity’s tallest player at 5-foot-11, had seven of her team-high 15 kills in the third game, along with one of her two service aces.

Cruz is one of two seniors on the Warriors’ roster. Four sophomores – Eichler, Lindsay McShane, Allie Steele and Cali Jones – and freshman Shayla Pendergraft were among Amity’s listed starters for the contest. (Steele is the team’s libero.) All five underclassmen factored heavily into Romney’s rotation.

Contrast that to Willamina, with eight seniors among 11 rostered players. Kasey Anderson, one of two sophomores on the varsity squad, was listed as the tallest player on the court at 6-foot-0.

Youth occasionally is served.

“To have a game like the third game and expect to have that for the fourth, I’m not in a position to expect that,” Romney said. “They just have a lot to learn.”

Hitting and communication errors plagued the Warriors in the fourth game, turning a 4-2 lead into a 15-9 deficit. Much of the home crowd’s hope for a comeback dissipated when the ball went to Stackhouse for service.

“They had the roster to get it done, but they struggled with serve-receive,” Zimbrick said of Amity. “I felt like it was going to be a much tighter game than it was.”

The Warriors – who returned three players with varsity experience in 2012 – hosted Colton on Thursday; results were unavailable at press time. On Saturday, Amity travels to play East Linn Christian of Lebanon in a nonleague tournament.

“Willamina and Dayton would be two big tests for what level of play we’d have throughout the season,” Romney said. “There’s no team (the Warriors) can’t beat. They have to have the right discipline and mental toughness. I can’t tell if they’re going to win on any given night.”

The Bulldogs hosted West Valley League rival Dayton on Thursday night; results were unavailable at press time. Willamina travels to take on Horizon Christian on Tuesday.

“This week is our hard week,” Zimbrick said. “It’d be good to come back with two wins.”

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