Tualatin downs Forest Grove to get off to a winning start in league play

by: DAN BROOD - GOOD TIMES -- Tualatin's (from left) Jasmine Miller, Claire Bange, Bridget Nolan, Maddie Powelson, Kristen Yarbrough and Megan Lundgreen celebrate during the Wolves' win over Forest Grove.TUALATIN — The Tualatin High School volleyball team has some proven, veteran returning players this season.

The Timberwolves squad also includes some enthusiastic, talented younger players.

On Tuesday night, they all worked together and came away with an impressive season-opening win.

The Wolves began their schedule by scoring a 25-22, 25-21, 25-27, 25-18 victory over Forest Grove in a Pacific Conference opener played at Tualatin High School.

“It was really important for us to start off strong,” Tualatin senior Maddie Powelson said after the match. “We’ve got a lot of new people this year, but they all stepped up. We had good leadership tonight and a great crowd.”

“This feels great,” Tualatin senior Claire Bange said. “It’s exciting to start the season with a win. So far, it’s been a good mix for us and I think we have a lot of potential as a team.”

While it was only the first match of the season, Tualatin coach Ben Stern agreed that getting the victory was beneficial for his team.

“It was a great way to start,” he said. “It’s nice having this mix of seniors and youth. I don’t think we’ve had that before. It’s kind of refreshing.”

The Wolves, maybe battling some opening-night jitters, had to come from behind to win the first set of Tuesday’s match, as the Vikings jumped out to a 19-13 DAN BROOD - POWELSON POWER -- Tualatin senior Maddie Powelson (22) turned in a big performance for the Wolves in Tuesday's victory.

Tualatin got back-to-back kills by freshman Haley Howarth and Powelson to trim the margin to 19-15, but Forest Grove upped its lead to 20-15 on a block by junior Mary Hutchins.

However, after that, it was all Tualatin.

The Wolves got a side-out kill by Powelson to make the score 20-16. They then took over behind the serving of Howarth. Tualatin, with the freshman serving, rolled off six straight points — two coming on aces and one on a kill by Powelson off a set by sophomore Bridget Nolan — to take a 22-20 lead.

Two more kills by Powelson — who looked totally recovered from an anterior cruciate ligament injury she suffered playing club volleyball in February — gave Tualatin a 24-22 advantage.

A Forest Grove error then gave the Wolves a 25-22 first-set win.

Tualatin also had to come from behind in the second set, as Forest Grove took a 5-1 lead early. But the Wolves, behind three kills by Powelson and one each by Bange and senior Kristen Yarbrough, came back to take a 16-14 lead.

The set went back and forth from there, with the teams battling to a 20-20 tie following a kill by Forest Grove sophomore Bryanna Hanson.

But that’s when the Wolves stepped up again. With Nolan serving strong, and with Powelson coming up with two more kills, Tualatin pulled away to win the set by a 25-21 margin.

In the third set, the Wolves, behind Nolan’s serving, and getting a block by junior Jasmine Miller, jumped out to a quick 5-1 lead.

But persistent Forest Grove battled back. The Vikings, constantly chipping away, rallied to take a 20-19 lead on a block by junior Shelby DAN BROOD - UP HIGH -- Tualatin junior Jasmine Miller (right) reaches up for the ball.

Tualatin answered back with consecutive kills by sophomore Rachel Coggins, Bange and Yarbrough to reclaim the lead at 22-20. But the Vikings rallied again and came way with a 27-25 third-set win.

That seemed to have the Wolves fired up going into the fourth set.

With senior libero Megan Lundgreen serving, Tualatin, getting an ace serve, a tip by Powelson and a kill by Howarth off a set by Nolan, scored five straight points early in the set to take a 9-5 lead.

The Wolves, getting kills by Yarbrough, Howarth and Powelson in addition to a block by Miller and an ace by Nolan, pushed their advantage to 17-12.

Another kill by Yarbrough off a Nolan set made the score 22-15.

A tip by Yarbrough and yet another kill by Powelson helped the Wolves close out the 25-18 fourth-set win, which wrapped up the match.

“We definitely had a good vibe tonight,” Bange said. “When we feel it, we’re totally on.”

“Megan passed great tonight,” Powelson said. “Our passing was good and we all had good swings. Haley had great swings tonight. Tonight was a good sign. It gives us a lot of confidence and it also showed us what we need to work on.”

Bange also saw Tuesday’s win as a sign of good things to come this season.

“We’ll be contending,” she said with a smile. “We’ll see, but I think we will be.”

The Wolves will be back in action tonight (Thursday) when they play at Hillsboro in a league match starting at 6:45 p.m. Tualatin will be back home Tuesday to host Newberg in a 6:45 p.m. league contest.

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