By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– South Salem wasn’t about to go down easily against cross-town foe West Salem in the Titans four-set 25-16, 25-18, 24-26, 25-21 victory Wednesday evening out in West Salem.
With both squads fighting for the postseason, the Titans sitting in fourth-place in the Mountain Valley Conference and the Saxons a few games behind them in sixth in the Hunt for one of those 32 spots come State Playoff time.
The Titans glided through the first two sets. Having pulled away in the opening set and used an 11-4 second set start to set the pace in the following set, it looked as if West would be on their way to a sweep on home turf with two games left in the regular season.
But as the Titans seemed to be in control, the Saxons caught them off guard by starting the third set up 7-3 and led 11-6 shortly after.
“We were able to realize how much we need to work together and focus in. A lot of the time we could get distracted, but it was good for us to realize to focus in,” said West Salem’s Kylah Newton.
Newton and Keva Neidigh led the Titan charge back into the lead following Newton’s kill that made it 14-13 entering a Saxon timeout. Coming out of the break South had refocused and hung around with the West Salem team on the other side of the net.
“We played one of our best games, yeah it sucked that we lost but it was really good growth entering the tournament we’re playing in. I’m hoping we’re going to bring our A-game to there,” said the Saxons Gabby Baker. It’s just cleaning up our errors and playing as a team, our third set we’ve played as a team. We were all talking, communicating and I really just enjoyed how we’re doing that so I think we could really bring that to the tournament.
“We played a lot better than we did in our last two sets and we kind of pushed. The last set we pushed as well, but I felt like we could have pushed some more.”
South Salem will be at the tough West Linn Tournament this weekend that features teams like Jesuit and Sprague. Baker herself had a few timely kills in the third set, and along with the net presence of Zoe Fry and Laila Leaks to help block kill attempts by West Salem to push the match to a fourth match.
Emmi Marks and Ali Calvin-Stupfel each recorded two kills each early in the fourth set with the Titans leading 6-1 before South Salem got it to 11-10 on a rally. No timeouts were called during either rally, nor would one would be called until the Titans went up 20-14 on the Saxons during the final set of the match.
Certianly it was a good test of mental focus and working together as individual teams during that fourth set with South sitting 31st in 6A to the Titans 23rd coming out of the game with both teams aspirations of getting to beyond the end of next week with their postseason push.
“A lot of it takes mental focus and I feel like we were able to achieve that by working together. Be patient, keep going through the motions and we need to talk,” said Newton. “If we’re working hard and working together, I really think we could get to playoffs.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald