ATHENA — Heppner and Weston-McEwen needed all five sets Saturday to determine the top team in the Blue Mountain Conference. And if it were judged by net points won, the Mustangs would have taken over first in a landslide.
Heppner won 110 points to Weston-McEwen’s 99. But those numbers don’t always add up to a victory.
“What a huge win for us,” said TigerScots libero McKayla Carlin. “We’d been preparing for a match like that all year. Like I said, it’s our biggest win so far.”
Weston-McEwen never led by more than four points at any moment during the match and won all three of its sets by the minimum requirement of two points. The teams were tied at 24-24 in the first and fourth sets that eventually bowed to the TigerScots and Heppner got as close as 13-12 at the end of the decisive fifth set.
In the middle there, this one was all Heppner.
“Set 2 we got timid, it’s that simple,” Weston-McEwen coach Shawn White said. “And when you get timid and you play a good team like Heppner — and they are a very good team, what a win for us — then they can get going.
“We got timid which led to mistakes which led to us giving them balls they could pass real easily. They opened up their fireworks and let us have it.”
The Mustangs dominated the second set especially. All but two of Weston-McEwen’s points came on errors by Heppner as the visitors rolled out to a 14-4 lead and never looked back.
Heppner outside hitter Baily Bennett was a killing machine in the middle part of the match, tallying six kills or better in each of the first three sets and gutting the TigerScots from the service line.
The key was to keep Weston-McEwen scrambling, she said. Never let up.
“This year we’ve been working a lot on pushing forward, because it’s a race to 25,” said Bennett, who led the match with 24 kills, one ahead of teammate Alana Wilson.
The senior embodied the Heppner tactic in serving, an all-or-nothing barrage. The rockets off her right arm either blasted through the TigerScots defense — such as her five aces in six swings between the second and third sets — or went rogue into the net or out of bounds. Bennett finished 11-17 serving, but also with six aces.
“I try to get more under it, but not all the way under it so it doesn’t go out the back, like hit more and roll my wrist,” she said, adding she’s still working on maintaining velocity while cutting back on errors.
The TigerScots started to figure out the strong serves after Heppner’s 11th ace in the final frame. With that weapon gone, the match became a footrace to 15.
“We were mostly just trying to get the set up, because they were going to be harder serves,” Weston-McEwen’s Molly von Borstel said. “We’re usually a pretty good defensive team so it wasn’t too hard (to adjust).”
Once the TigerScots could control the ball, setter Taryn Coffman set up the von Borstel show. The junior outside hitter broke the 24-24 tie in the fourth with two straight kills to keep the Athena girls’ hopes alive and was only heating up. The fifth set belonged to the hard-swinging lefty.
Von Borstel knocked down seven kills in the fifth, including the decisive 15th point, while Coffman had nine assists in that game. Von Borstel took the TigerScots’ first four points with kills, stretching her streak to six straight holding over from the set before.
But Weston-McEwen’s 4-2 lead turned into a 5-4 deficit when von Borstel rotated to the back line. By the time the team captain returned to her left-side hitting position in the front, the TigerScots were behind 10-7. Six straight winners, two von Borstel kills and a Carlin ace among them, proved the team had weathered the worst of it and put them within striking distance of the win.
“Well I was really mad about those last two games that we lost,” von Borstel said about her monster set, which included seven of her 20 kills. “Our goal was to beat Heppner. That was a big deal to us, so I really wanted to win.”
Heppner beat Weston-McEwen in the Blue Mountain District Tournament’s title game last fall after the TigerScots had won the regular season crown.
Other leaders from Saturday’s match included Weston-McEwen’s Coffman, who assisted on 27 kills, all but three of them in sets the TigerScots won. Kelly Wilson and Micha Hintz paired up for the setting duties for Heppner. Wilson finished with a match-high 28 while Hintz went for 18.
Heppner and Weston-McEwen also each played Pilot Rock in Athena later on Saturday during a three-way duel. Both teams shut out the Rockets (2-13, 1-7 BMC) in straight sets.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.