Corvallis High brought two of the best hitters in the state to the net Tuesday night and West Albany answered the challenge.
Led by middle blockers Gracie Boeder and Bella Marsh, the Bulldogs found a way to slow down all-state senior standouts Nevaeh Bray and Ryann Gregg.
Boeder and Marsh’s six blocks apiece provided a lot of momentum and played a big part in their team’s dominant effort.
West blocked Bray and Gregg six times for points in the third set alone in a sweep of the host Spartans in a Mid-Willamette Conference volleyball match.
Set scores were 25-12, 26-24, 25-12.
“I have some trouble getting over, but I just knew that my team needed me and I knew I needed to get over,” said Marsh, a junior playing her first season as a full-time varsity player.
She blocked Bray for the decisive point in the second set as the Bulldogs (6-0, 2-0) scored the final three points to go ahead 2-0. Marsh did the same to open the third. West scored the first four points of the final set and never trailed.
Bray was held to seven kills and Gregg, last year’s 5A state player of the year, had six.
Spartans head coach Steve Hyre said part of his team’s struggles centered around some younger and less-seasoned players not stepping up to make plays when needed.
“Their game plan worked,” Hyre said of the Bulldogs, acknowledging the opponent’s strength up front as a strong blocking unit. “Ours, we just had some youth of big-game varsity experience and it showed. They played a little afraid. It was new to a lot of them.”
Hyre said West began “camping” on Bray and Gregg because the Spartans (2-2, 0-1) didn’t force the Bulldogs to respect the other Corvallis hitters.
Boeder and Marsh had some help from Hannah Stadstad, who had four stuff blocks, all in the third set, along with eight kills.
Teammate Sydney Backer had 19 digs and three aces, Madie Dowell 13 kills and Elijah Sanders 34 assists.
Gregg had 10 digs to go with her seven kills. Teammate Daniela DiCosmo added nine digs and Zaley Bennett 14 assists.
Contacts by Bray and Gregg were limited in the first set, allowing the Bulldogs to take control early.
West had leads of 6-2, 11-4 and 17-6. Corvallis got no closer than nine from there. In that set, Stadstad had three kills, Brooke Rogers two and Boeder two kills, a block and an ace.
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The back-and-forth second set was tied 15 times, the last at 24.
West scored three straight to lead 11-10 and Corvallis came back with three in a row. It remained a one-point score for 11 straight points before Bray’s kill put the Spartans ahead 24-22.
But a Corvallis serve that went long, a Rogers kill and Marsh’s block of Bray gave the set to West.
“We’re such a young group overall, and they’ve just been improving every single night. I’ve been seeing it out of all of them,” said Bulldogs coach Kelli Backer.
The coach said Bray and Gregg are “phenomenal hitters” and that her players struggled to keep up with them early in the match. The message was to know where they were at all times.
“Where Nevaeh goes, you go. I think my middles finally figured that out,” she said. “Hannah (Stadstad) finally figured out Ryann there on the outside.
It’s been a strong suit for us so far this season. But they run a fast offense and those girls are high-powered hitters.”
Hyre said his team didn’t pass well Tuesday, which often limited the Spartans to one option and kept the offense from performing at a high rate.
“We’re a better passing team than that. We just struggled tonight for whatever reason,” he said.
Coach Backer said last week that her players went to practice wanting to work hard because they knew a matchup with Corvallis was getting close. Both teams were hit hard by graduation but each returned key players from 2018, when the Spartans beat the Bulldogs in both conference matches, in five and four sets.
Marsh said playing the Spartans again was in the minds of her and her teammates since last year and that they “really wanted to beat them.”
The teams meet again Oct. 15 in a three-way Mid-Willamette meeting at Dallas.
West dropped a set in a four-set win at Central last week. Coach Backer blamed that on not being mentally strong enough.
The Bulldogs rebounded from that last weekend at a tournament in Salem, defeating four 6A teams. They carried that progress over into Tuesday, and it showed in pulling out a tight second set and preventing Corvallis from getting on any long runs all match.
“This is so new to so many of our players,” coach Backer said. “For them to maintain composure ... and that’s been our thing, don’t show your frustrations, let it go.”