ATHENA — Prep sports are back in Eastern Oregon. And it might take awhile to find a better game than the one Weston-McEwen began its volleyball season with Thursday night in Athena.
The TigerScots opened a three-way duel with Dufur and Powder Valley by staging a mid-match turnaround and rallying from two sets down to beat the Rangers in extra points 16-25, 20-25, 25-11, 25-19 and 16-14.
In the decisive fifth set, neither team could shake the other as they traded shots. No lead extended beyond two points. But Dufur held the advantage 14-13 in the first-to-15 final set.
Out of a Weston-McEwen timeout, the Rangers served the ball to the home team and the TigerScots set up their attack. With its most dangerous hitter in the back of the formation, Weston-McEwen went with finesse as Marlene Bodmer dropped a ball behind Dufur’s front line.
The Rangers took their turn to celebrate as the TigerScots mulled defeat. So the line judges confered.
“We celebrated because we thought it was down. Then we just watched,” Bodmer said of the short conference between officials.
The head judge ruled in the TigerScots’ favor and two quick serves by Bodmer later, Lacey Kuehn picked up the game-winning kill for Weston-McEwen.
The TigerScots, the regular-season Blue Mountain Conference champions from a year ago, struggled in the early action. Though the season started at 4 p.m. Thursday, someone forgot to tell Weston-McEwen.
Dufur, which went 26-6 in the Class-1A Big Sky Conference in 2011, cruised to a 19-5 first-set lead by letting the TigerScots beat themselves. Nearly 80 percent of the Rangers’ points during that set came on hitting errors from the opposition.
The sole savior for Weston-McEwen fans in the set came with the Rangers ready to cap it off at 23-13. In a forgettable start to the match, outside hitter Molly von Borstel made sure Dufur at least remembered her. The junior unleashed a furious left-handed smash that careened into the back line, exploding against the face of Dufur’s Teneille McDonald.
“I learned my lesson on my hands getting down,” said the junior middle hitter, who’s coach used a timeout following the play to help McDonald gather herself.
Dufur seemed ready to make it a short evening by moving out to a 21-10 lead in the second set. Then Weston-McEwen came alive. Though the set eventually went in Dufur’s favor — putting the TigerScots on the extinction watch — the home team looked like a different breed.
The momentum had shifted.
Weston-McEwen dominated the third set in not-even-close fashion and after pulling away from a late 17-17 tie in the fourth, the team was floating above the court. The final set felt destined to swing the TigerScots’ way, von Borstel said.
“I think it was the first game jitters is all,” said von Borstel, who tallied a game-high 24 kills. “Every (set) was ours, that how we go at it — with confidence.”
When the TigerScots were through, they handed the court to Powder Valley and Dufur before returning to face the Badgers in the late game. Weston-McEwen beat Powder Valley in four sets, 22-25, 25-18, 26-24, 25-18.
“We started out fairly quick and they came back on us,” TigerScots coach Shawn White said. “They bring some serious heat.”
Powder Valley didn’t come away completely empty handed. The Badgers beat Dufur in four sets in the middle match.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.