By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Kennedy found themselves in a dogfight versus Harrisburg Saturday afternoon during the Salem Academy Tournament after a nice strong start to their fifth-game of the day in the Gold Bracket semi-final round.
But, after their 25-18 win, the Eagles began to challenge them as Harrisburg took the second set 26-24 and held the keys to the car of victory before the Lady Trojans stormed back to stun the Lady Eagles 15-13 to reach the Gold Bracket Finals.
“Really intense and I think we really needed that because some of our games have been a little spread out and it’s not getting us to play our hardest,” said Kennedy’s Hailey Arritola. “So I think that game pushed us to critique every little detail of the game and trust all everyone on our team.”
Fun fact, the set that the Trojans dropped versus Harrisburg was their fifth dropped set of the season as they picked up win number 15.
The Crusaders, who have a lot new faces this season after the departure of seven seniors from their sixth-place team in 2017, worked their way through to the rematch with Kennedy riding a four-game winning streak after starting the season 0-4.
“It was amazing. We worked so hard coming back from a lot of people including us thinking that we’re not going to do as well because we lost so many seniors,” said Emiliee Reed. “So that was amazing that we came back today and pull out second which is awesome.
“We’ve really improved on communication,” Reed continued. “I still think we need to improve on covering and just making sure that we’re completely trusting in each other, but I still think we have room for improvement. Serving, (we) always can improve on.”
Salem Academy jumped out to a 7-1 lead to start against Kennedy before the Trojans called time.
Kennedy’s Sophia Carley scored three straight points with a kill and two-straight aces to cut Salem Academy’s lead to 10-5, the Crusaders pushed it to 13-5 after Grace Brown’s kill as the Crusader senior showcased her unique playing style into the second set after her squad took the first set 25-18.
“We were really pumped up, it was like, ‘Ok, this is our home turf. We got to defend it’ and we got pumped up and emphasis that we got this,” said Brown. “We might be the underdog, but we can pull this through’, and in the second set we kind of lost it because it was our sixth game and we were losing a bit of energy. But I was believing in my teammates and we played really well and scrappy and it was unfortunate we didn’t pull through.”
The Trojans and Salem Academy traded shots, traded blows in the second set as each pulled the other in after a run. Kennedy knew it was the Lady Crusaders home turf, home tournament as they found themselves down 17-14, but they weren’t going to roll over and hand the title over so easily. They found their rhythm once more and took the second set after Elise Suing got match-point in the 25-21 win.
“The first set after that we were all down, but in the timeout we picked it up and figured it out and we were like, ‘This is our last game of the day. We’re not tired’. It was kind of mental and not physical,” said Kalyssa Kleinschmit.
“Coach was like, ‘this their tournament. Don’t let them win it’. We know what we can do, we feel like we have the potential to do better so that (first) game was kind of a warm-up for us. We knew we could do way better, so coming into the second set, we were a little more confident because we knew we could only go up from there,” adds Arritola.
Even though the Lady Crusaders cut the 13-6 Trojans lead to 13-8 mid-set, Kennedy proved too much down the stretch as they complete the 18-25, 25-21, 15-8 comeback for the Gold Bracket Championship Saturday evening.
Salem Academy will host Amity Tuesday at 6pm while the Trojans travel to Sheridan to play Delphian Tuesday at 6pm as well with both teams heading back to league play.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald