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Hounds clinch title game berth

Gaston turns back Delphian and will play for the Northwest League championship

 - Gaston senior Amber Kuyl elevates for a kill during last Thursday's Northwest League volleyball match against Delphian.The Gaston volleyball team got the win it needed last Thursday.

Of course, it’s always nice to send the seniors out with a win on Senior Night, which is exactly what the Greyhounds did with a 23-25, 25-19, 25-15, 25-17 victory against Delphian.

But perhaps more importantly, the triumph sealed first place in the west district of the Northwest League, guaranteeing Gaston a spot in the league championship game, scheduled for Saturday at Vernonia. And perhaps most important of all, along with a trip to the league title game, the win also clinched one of the league’s three automatic state playoff berths.

“Yeah, last night was kind of a determining evening,” Gaston coach Maddy Anderson noted.

And Anderson’s crew stepped up in the biggest way possible. The Greyhounds, along with Delphian, Neah-Kah-Nie and Nestucca, make up the conference’s west district. After dropping a five-setter to Neah-Kah-Nie last Tuesday, Gaston (10-10, 6-4) entered the Delphian match leading the west standings, but it needed to win to control its own destiny.

With so much at stake, the Greyhounds were a bit out of sorts in Game 1, but they got it together after that, settling down and focusing on the fundamentals.

“You could definitely tell that their nerves affected them that first game, but afterward they very much composed themselves and were very, very excited after the game,” Anderson said.

With Haylie Davis leading the way with 21 kills, Gaston improved its consistency of play and rolled after that first game. The Hounds did start to get a bit antsy when they trailed by several points in the fourth game, but Anderson called a timeout to calm the nerves and then watched her side turn back the Dragons to lock up league championship game and state playoff berths.

That is quite the happy ending for the team’s six seniors, who were celebrated that evening and have been a constant presence on the court since they started out at the high school. The team went 6-13 their freshman year, in 2011

“It’s a huge accomplishment, and these girls, they started out as varsity starters their freshman year, and so it’s kind of been one of those really long journeys, where each year they became stronger competitors,” Anderson said.

In addition to Davis, a few other seniors played pivotal roles in the Delphian win. Anderson said Amber Kuyl and Jaycie Endicott provided tough service, and Kacey Cookston had six blocks, as did freshman Charity Hall, which Anderson called “huge.”

Next up, Gaston gets a rematch against No. 5 Vernonia. When the two teams met back on Oct. 2 in their only contest this season, the Greyhounds took a two-set lead before watching the Loggers come all the way back, ending with a 16-14 win in the decisive fifth game.

“Our girls are really excited. That was a very, very close game,” Anderson recalled. “I think they felt like there were some things they could have done there at the end of the game that would have put them in a better position to be successful. They’re just looking forward to another opportunity.”

A win would lift Gaston to its first league championship since 1977, Anderson said. The match has a 3 p.m. start time.

Note: Gaston’s seniors are Davis, Endicott — this year’s homecoming queen — Kuyl, Cookston, Veronica Vandehey and Alysa Candau.

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