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Spartans win first set and survive Lions in 3-2 (25-19, 21-25, 25-22, 20-25, 15-10) upset Tuesday

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: JAKE MCNEAL - From left, senior setter Kenna Reinholdt (12), freshman setter Brea Paulson (15), junior defensive specialist Karli Cupp (11) and the Lions celebrate a point against Hillsboro.SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: JAKE MCNEAL - Lions sophomore middle blocker Brynn Austin (21) leaps to defend against a shot.

The Lions took the Spartans the distance at home on Tuesday but could not pull off a comeback.

Hillsboro claimed the first set and, though St. Helens never lost a series by more than six points, avoided a season sweep in 3-2 (19-25, 25-21, 22-25, 25-20, 10-15) fashion.

"I think that we really came unprepared for the first game," Lions senior libero Abby Austin said. "Everyone's feet were planted like trees. The second set was a huge difference: Our mentality changed, but then it started going downhill. This was such a big game and it hurts to lose, but it's definitely a lesson of how any team can beat another team any day."

St. Helens (7-10 overall, 6-6 Northwest Oregon Conference), which also fell 2-0 (21-25, 11-25) to No. 3 North Eugene on Saturday, Oct. 7, at the St. Helens Tournament, has nonetheless beaten the Spartans (4-13, 3-9) six of eight times and five by sweep since Hillsboro came down from Class 6A in 2014.

"We didn't play our best but we didn't play our worst," Lions senior setter Kenna Reinholdt said. "I think we could've had better communication and higher energy coming into the game."

St. Helens will try to avoid a season sweep at the hands of sixth-ranked host Sandy (11-6, 11-1) and all-conference sophomore talents Brooke Dodge (a setter) and Samantha Brewster (an outside hitter) at 6:45 p.m. Oct. 17.

The Pioneers have swept the Lions in the last two meetings after losing the previous 11, seven by shutout, since 2010.

"We definitely didn't come out as strong as we wanted to [on Tuesday], and our energy was pretty low," St. Helens sophomore middle blocker Brynn Austin said. "After losing the first one, we switched the lineup up a bit, and ended up winning the next one. Our energy started to boost. As we were in the fifth set, we all wanted it badly. After a few mistakes, we lost. We have a lot of things to work on before our game against Sandy."

The Lions can also avoid a season sweep at Wilsonville and senior all-conference players Olivia Blakey (a right-sider) and Madison Schmitt (a setter) in their 6:45 p.m. regular-season finale Oct. 19.

St. Helens has beaten the Wildcats 13 times and traded five sweeps in 23 meetings since 2006, when the Lions joined the new Northwest Oregon Conference from Class 4A and the Wildcats came up from Class 3A.

Class 5A rankings are scheduled to freeze and determine postseason qualification at 10 p.m. Oct. 21.

"I think that if we made all of our serves [against Hillsboro] that we missed we would have had a win," St. Helens senior middle blocker Krista Gatten said. "We didn't push hard enough, and hopefully we make up for that next game."

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