By Robert Husseman • Sports Editor • 

Bulldogs come back to bite Spartans

WILLAMINA -- Sydney France's body has been through a rough week.

The Willamina junior outside hitter passed "a couple of kidney stones" the day before the Bulldogs' Class 3A West Valley League playoff match against rival Sheridan. She needed a cortisone shot to aid an injured right (hitting) shoulder. 

Adding insult to injury, the underdog Spartans used solid service and defense to build a two-game lead and threatened to end Willamina's season.

France responded with a four-kill third game, in which she recorded a block and a kill on the final two points. From there, she knew that a comeback was in the works.

"The look on (coach) Carrie (Zimbrick's) face after the third game was the most high I've ever felt in my life," France said.

The good vibes continued on through the end. France finished with five kills and three service aces and Kasey Anderson led all players with 19 kills as Willamina pulled out an energetic, emotional 21-25, 21-25, 25-17, 25-15, 15-12 victory over Sheridan Thursday night at Willamina High School.

"This team tends to go from really low lows to really high highs," France said.

On the other side of the roller coaster, Cassadie Breeden led Sheridan with 10 kills and also had four service aces. Hannah Denton had 24 digs and four service aces, and Natalia Rentsch filled up the stat sheet with seven kills, five service aces and three blocks.

"They played with everything they had tonight," Spartans coach Jessica Todd said. "I couldn't have asked for any more. That fifth game, they played so hard and so well. It just didn't go our way."

Sheridan (6-13, 5-9 WVL), "didn't let the ball fall," in Todd's words, in building its 2-0 game lead early on. Willamina (9-12, 7-7 WVL) came back with a vengeance from the service line.

Rentsch had back-to-back service aces later in that game to tie it at 16 apiece and keep the Spartans within striking distance, but Willamina rallied for seven straight points on Anderson's serve. Andrea Otter and France combined for three kills in that sequence, further helping the Bulldogs distance themselves.

Otter and France combined for three service aces as the Bulldogs built a 15-5 lead in the fourth game; Willamina led by as much as 13 points before heading to the fifth game. The Spartans committed seven hitting errors in the fifth game, helping the Bulldogs while Anderson (four kills) exerted control.

Willamina will play Dayton on Saturday at noon for a Class 3A state playoff berth; the location is to be determined. The loss concluded Sheridan's season.

Westside Christian 3, Dayton 0

PORTLAND -- Sydney Van Noy had 10 kills and 11 digs and Sierra Ray also had 11 digs, but the Pirates fell to the Eagles, 25-13, 25-14, 25-22, in Thursday's Class 3A West Valley League playoff game at West Hills Christian School in Portland.

The Pirates (13-6, 10-4 WVL) will face Willamina Saturday at noon at a location to be determined for a Class 3A state playoff berth.

Sprague 3, McMinnville 0

SALEM -- The Grizzlies fell to the Olympians, 25-20, 25-22, 25-23, for their fifth loss in seven games Thursday night, but McMinnville (14-8, 10-6 Class 6A Greater Valley Conference) retrained fourth place in the GVC and automatically qualifies for the Class 6A state playoffs.

The Grizzlies' first-round matchup is to be determined.