Timberwolves have things clicking

Volleyball: Tualatin powers its way to a three-game sweep over McMinnville
by: DAN BROOD BIG SHOT — Tualatin junior Maddi Powelson (22) smacks the ball over the net during the Timberwolves’ 25-17, 25-22, 25-7 victory over McMinnville.

TUALATIN - They're playing at a faster pace.

They're playing smarter.

They're having a lot of fun.

And they're winning.

In other words, things seem to be going just fine for the Tualatin High School volleyball team.

That certainly seemed to be the case for the Timberwolves last Thursday, when they powered their way to a 25-17, 25-22, 25-7 victory over McMinnville in a Pacific Conference match played at Tualatin High.

'We've improved with how fast we've been playing,' Tualatin senior Hannah Smargiassi said after the victory. 'We're definitely getting better and we're having a lot of fun. We're ready to fight every match.'

'This has been a lot of fun,' Tualatin junior Claire Bange said. 'We're really clicking this year. We're looking forward to what the rest of the season holds for us.'

McMinnville fell to 5-5 in league play at that point. Tualatin improved to 8-2 in conference games, putting the Wolves in a tie with Tigard for second place in the league standings.

'We've really been pushing ourselves,' Bange said. 'Our serving has been top notch. It was great tonight.'

And Tualatin's serving was great right from the start of last Thursday's match.

In the opening game, the Wolves took a 3-1 lead following an ace serve by Smargiassi. Then, following a kill by Bange, Tualatin pushed the margin to 5-2 behind an ace by senior setter Katie Nolan.

The Wolves took off from there, jumping to an 8-3 advantage following another kill by Bange.

McMinnville closed the gap to 9-7 following back-to-back kills by freshman Taylor Peterson and junior Hailey Gooch. But Tualatin wouldn't let the Grizzlies get closer.

The Wolves quickly opened the lead to 12-7 behind consecutive kills by junior Maddi Powelson, Smargiassi and Powelson again.

An ace by Powelson and a kill by senior Jordyn Skinner helped Tualatin up the margin to 18-12.

The Timberwolf lead was at 22-17 when Powelson closed out the first-game win with a pair of kills and a block.

Tualatin also triumphed in the back-and-forth second game, getting a 25-22 win.

'McMinnville did a good job in the second game,' Tualatin coach Ben Stern said.

But things weren't nearly as close in the third game of the match.

With Smargiassi and Bange both scoring on kills off of sets by Nolan, the Wolves jumped out to a quick 3-1 lead. Smargiassi then served a pair of aces, with the second smacking just inside the baseline, to up the margin to 6-1.

Tualatin was never threatened from there.

The Timberwolf lead went to 13-5 following kills by senior Jennifer Stein and Smargiassi.

McMinnville cut the lead to 15-7 on a Tualatin error. But that would be the last point the Grizzlies would score in the match.

Following a sideout, the Wolves, with Powelson serving, ended the match with a nine-point scoring spree on their way to getting a 25-7 third-game win.

'We did what we needed to do tonight,' Bange said. 'We've been working a lot on control.'

'We didn't have any super-amazing kills, but we controlled the game with our serving and defense,' Smargiassi said.

'We've been serving very well,' Stern said. 'That's a big part of our game. We've been working on how fast we're playing and on cutting down on our errors. We're focusing on being smart.'

Following the win over McMinnville, Tualatin lost 25-16, 25-19, 25-19 to rival Tigard in a match played Tuesday at Tigard High School.

With the win, the Tigers claimed sole possession of second place in the Pacific Conference standings, moving to 9-2 in league play.