Willamina vs Sheridan volleyball_oct-4

WILLAMINA – On Sept. 8, the Willamina Bulldogs rolled into Sheridan for an early season volleyball bout. In four sets, the Bulldogs beat their heated rivals. For nearly a month, Sheridan’s players competed in league games, practiced hard, and planned their revenge. Destiny demanded an intense rematch when the teams met in Willamina Tuesday.

This time, the script flipped. The Spartans hand delivered the fight to the Bulldogs on their home court, winning 25-23, 26-24, 26-28, 26-24. The close sets reflected the contention between the teams. The match had the makings of a classic.

In the first, rallies threatened. Kills rocketed. Blocks stifled. Serves skimmed the lines. The set was tied at 12, 16, 19 and 21. No team was able to gain advantage until Sheridan’s Sianna Williams played an incredible shot down the line to usher in a 25-23 win.

Inspired by the thrilling opening skirmish, Sheridan took the reins in the second. Emily Monroe, a towering presence at the net, locked down Willamina’s hitters. No clean shots passed through, with credit owed to Monroe, who recorded five blocks in that set.

The Spartans claimed a 19-13 lead, poised to win. But, as it has done all season, Willamina refused to surrender. A 13-3 run earned the Bulldogs a 23-22 advantage.The set was within reach. However, a heroic three-kill effort in the final moments from Spartan Maddy Samples led her team to a 26-24 win.

Redemption for its home loss was a possibility, and the Spartans grew focused.

The third set again opened with a large lead for Sheridan, as it powered to a 14-5 edge. But, like the previous game, Willamina battled back. A Maddy Konovalov block punctuated a 6-1 Bulldogs’ run, which pulled them within four.

Later in the set, with Sheridan still clinging to a slim lead, Willamina’s middle blocker, Bethany Berry, took over. With her team down three, Berry suffocated Spartan hitters with tremendous blocks. Next, she blasted an ace to thrust her squad within one. Berry’s herculean effort inspired her team, and the home side kept its hopes breathing with a 28-26 win.

There would be no Spartan blitz opening the fourth set. Willamina, encouraged from the third set, forced the visitors fight for every point. Fans envisioned the match edging to a dramatic fifth set. Berry did her best to prolong the battle, racking up four kills and two blocks in the final frame.

Ultimately, Sheridan’s all-around play ensured the game would remain close. The two teams traded points throughout the set, but Sheridan emerged on top, winning 26-24.

For the Spartans, the earlier defeat was avenged. Head coach Carrie Nielsen, triumphant after the match, explained how important this match was for her girls.

“Revenge was a factor. It’s always good to beat Willamina, I’m not going to lie. Overall, I’m proud we came together as a team, fought adversity and we did it,” said Nielsen.

Sheridan was led by the incredible play of Monroe, Samples, Williams and Kassidy Ellis. Samples paved the way offensively with 17 kills. Monroe locked down the net with her 11 blocks and seven kills. Williams added seven kills and was the most effective server with three aces. Ellis, who had a solid overall game with 12 kills and 10 blocks, spoke following the win.

“I think we did amazing. We pulled it together and played as a team. It feels really good to beat Willamina in their own home after they beat us at our place,” said Ellis.

Willamina benefited from hearty efforts by Berry, Brooke France and Andrea Otter. Berry, far and away her team’s best hitter, collected 13 kills. She was a defensive force, as well, compiling 11 blocks. France added nine blocks, with four during the tight first set. Otter’s powerful outside hitting, though somewhat negated by the blockers of Sheridan, still recorded nine kills.

Head coach Brent Murrell reflected on the close loss.

“Sheridan just played outstanding. They gave us everything we could handle. There were no easy points in that match,” said Murrell. “The two middle blockers were very committed to the block. Very rarely did we get a hit, middle or outside, that was clean. But we battled back tonight, and I’m very proud of my girls.”

Next for the Spartans (5-5, 7-8) is a home match against Horizon Christian Monday at 6 p.m.

Willamina (6-4, 11-6) remains in third-place and travels to fourth-place Dayton Monday at 6:15 p.m.