By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Brooskie Isham brought her team in, the senior had some thoughts about the upcoming fifth set in their fifth-set that had motivated her teammates, some chiming in with her in the three-minute breather between the fourth and fifth sets Wednesday night. In what will be their last home game ever as a team this season, the message was one that was quiet simple really: They weren’t going down without a fight against Sunset in the Opening Round of the 6A Postseason. They were going to leave it all out there on their home court for their home crowd.
Throughout Wednesday’s game, the Saxons had overcome the Apollos, slowing up the game. Either by timeouts whenever South Salem was about to start a run, Sunset Head Coach Lad Salness asking for clarification throughout the game, and the natural pace of how the Apollos wanted to play. Overall, it was a different pace of game than what they were used to going into that final set with both teams season’s on the line.
“With Sunset slowing down the game, we really did struggle but I’m proud of our team for fighting hard against the odds and we just had to fight hard. Keeping the pace at our game and trying to speed the game up to where we can play is what really helped carry us through the end, and coming into it with all that energy of making that game fast, that really carried us,” Isham said of the opening few sets.
“We went into the next sets knowing that and made sure that we kept up with our momentum and energy and not focus on the other side but instead focusing on getting the win on our side,” adds Carpenter of keeping up their momentum.
The Saxons dropped the opening set of their five set, 21-25, 25-18, 25-21, 20-25, 16-14 before coming back with back-to-back set victories, adjusting to the pace of the game South wanted to play in being fast and trying to take advantage of their opportunities presented by Sunset. But like their host, the Apollos weren’t going to back down as they forced a decisive fifth-set with their fourth set victory to make-or-break the season in the 16/17 match-up in Salem.
That’s when Isham led the huddle talk knowing it was going to be her last set at home, her message was simple:
“That was a really big talk. Going into a fifth set like that, we had to keep playing aggressive, we couldn’t play scared and that was the main point that we all tried to come across. Just playing aggressive and all of us doing our own jobs and communication. Those were the big things that we talked about and I feel like we executed on all three of those things at the end, so that was a really big talk at the beginning of the fifth set,” Isham said of her talk.
And everything started off dandy in the fifth set for the Saxons, jumping out to a 6-3 lead and holding a 9-6 lead coming down the homestretch. But that was when the Apollos used a perfectly placed timeout to throw a wrench into the South Salem wheels of momentum. As those timeouts did prior during the match, Sunset answered strongly once more, eventually pointing the Saxon season on it’s final point when Head Coach Matt Leicthy called time.
Throughout the match Leicthy had a calm demeanor, typical of the South Salem coach, as he mellowed out his team knowing one-point was all the Apollos needed to end their season.
Whatever Leicthy said though, worked.as South got the tying point and Carpenter gave the Saxons a 15-14 lead to force Sunset to take time.
“It was definitely stressful, but it all gave us a reason and a chance to step-up and calm ourselves down, know that we can do this and relax, breathe and go back in as if it was just another game.” Carpenter said of Leicthy’s timeout down 14-13.
The deciding point that followed the Apollo timeout seemed like it went on-and-on. Both teams battled and battled hard, but it was South Salem’s Carpenter with the game-deciding kill to send the Saxons to Beaverton Friday to play top-seed Jesuit on Saturday. A squad they’ve played once in pool play, took a set from them before facing them again back in the Clearwater Tournament on October 8.
And South Salem hopes that the familiarity amongst the two teams will help them come gameday in a few short days.
“It’s going to be super important to be consistent, they’re a really good team but we’re also a really good team, I have a lot of confidence in us. But we all have to play our best and we all have to step up,” Carpenter said.
“I think it’s going to be a really great game with how we played them in a tournament, we played them really hard and we took a set from them and I believe we can do it again. We just need to keep that aggressiveness and we need to keep that high-and-fast pace game that I know Jesuit is going to play anyway, and I think we can compete with them,” Isham adds.
Isham had 21 kills and five blocks, Carpenter had a team-high 24 kills. Malena Mathis had a team-high six blocks and Mackenzie Scott had 25 digs for the Saxons.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald