Estacada sweeps Madras at home just days after beating La Salle

With realistic expectations of a league championship heading into this season, the Estacada volleyball team was dealt a major blow with an early loss to Madras. As the White Buffalos traveled to Estacada on Monday, the Rangers knew they needed to avenge that loss for any chance at a league PHOTOS BY LOREN NIBBE - One of the keys to Estacadas victory was its offensive aggression, led by senior Sam Hammons among others.

Because Madras had beaten the Rangers in five games, Estacada needed to win in four or less in order to gain sole possession of first. Turns out the Rangers needed only three, defeating Madras 25-22, 26-24, 25-20 for an emotional sweep.

What made Monday’s matchup so exciting was the very different styles of play offered by the two teams. While Estacada was aggressive and powerful offensively, Madras thrived with good defense and passing.

For the Rangers, the key ultimately would be their ability to limit mistakes.

The Rangers got out of the gates well in game one, opening an early 6-2 lead behind a pair of aces from junior Mackenzie Gipple. From there, however, those dreaded errors began to surface.

After a pair of Ranger kills sailed well over the back line, Madras had pulled to within one at 6-5 before a Genna Settle kill and two more aces from Sarah Davies reasserted Ranger control.

The lead would grow as high as six early on, but every time it seemed like Madras was out of reach, they would storm back to pull it within three. To put into perspective the varying styles of play, with the score standing at 18-15 Estacada, Madras had just four kills, while the Rangers had 10.

Late in the game, with Madras on a 4-0 run that brought them back into things, the Rangers turned to senior Rachel Lowe and their front line for a major boost. With the score at 18-17, Lowe, freshman Jessica Wheeler and sophomore Tori Johnson logged three straight kills to extend the lead once again.

From there, Estacada held onto the lead for a 25-22 victory despite five serving errors.

With momentum on its side, Estacada came out well again in the second game, opening up an early 6-2 lead. Then Madras made its move.

The Buffalos went on a quick 8-1 run thanks to seven Ranger errors as they simply forgot how to handle the Madras serve.

After an Estacada timeout, Johnson and senior Sam Hammons brought the Rangers' swagger back with four kills in the next six points to bring the score to 12-11 Madras.

The Rangers hung around throughout the middle of the game, never falling more than four points behind but never regaining the lead until moving ahead 18-17. That lead was thanks to a 6-1 run fueled by Madras errors, another kill from Johnson and an ace from sophomore Sarah Davies.

With the score close as game two was coming to an end, the match had officially become a dog fight, as neither team would lead by more than three down the stretch.

As the sloppy play on both sides continued, Estacada eventually moved to within one point of taking the second game at 24-22, but Madras refused to give in.

Madras rallied for two straight points to push the game into overtime, tied at 24.

“We just needed to stay calm,” Hammons said. “I didn’t actually have any nerves, but we just got really excited.”

On the first point of overtime, it was Davies who came up big for Estacada with a brilliant shot. As the ball came over the net to the Estacada side, the Rangers bumped it to Davies, who everyone expected to set the ball for a Ranger kill.

Instead, Davies saw a hole in the Madras defense and promptly dropped the ball into the perfect spot across the floor for a Rangers point.

On the next point, after a long rally, Madras saw its kill sail over the end line, giving Estacada game No. 2, 26-24.

As the feeling that this match was over permeated the gym, Estacada’s play on the court only seemed to confirm that as they jumped out to a 8-0 lead thanks to great serving from junior Katie Nation.

But Madras wasn’t ready to quit.

They rallied all the way back to 10-7 before the Rangers turned to Lowe to bail them out once again with back-to-back kills to add to the lead.

The Rangers maintained that control throughout the third game, going up by as many as eight but never leading by less than four. Ultimately, the final score was 25-20 as the Rangers let out a cry of relief after the high-pressure match.

“We really wanted to win this one,” Hammons said. “When we went (to Madras) we did OK, but we lost in five and knew that we could have won. We wanted to show them how good we were, and so we were really, really aggressive.”

For Hammons, one of the team’s five seniors, her ability to raise the level of her game in a big match like this was something Estacada desperately needed. Whether it was with strong blocks or powerful kills, Hammons was one of the Rangers who clearly stood out Monday night.

“I just put a lot more aggression toward wanting to win,” she said. “A lot of these games the seniors need to take more of a leadership role, and so we did that.”

For head coach Shawna Lippert, the win was equally as satisfying.

“That was sweet,” she said. “That was the best I have seen them play; everyone was great from all angles. We called each game a little battle, and we emphasized every point tonight.

“I thought our serve receive was perfect in the first game, and by the third game I think Madras was feeling it. We were playing well, and I think they could tell that.”

The Rangers return home for senior night Thursday, Oct. 18, for a match against Gladstone. If Estacada wins its final three league matches, the Rangers will win the Tri-Valley League Title and will receive a bye into the round of 16 in the state playoffs.

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