Southridge starts fast in the 2006 fall season with four straight victories on the volleyball court

BEAVERTON - Tualatin had the height.

Southridge countered with heart. And the undersized Skyhawks, whose tallest player is 5-foot-9, used a gritty performance to sweep the Timberwolves 25-22, 25-18, 25-23 in the non-league matchup Thursday, Sept. 7.

Southridge made up for its shortcomings with a nothing-hits-the-floor defense and multi-prong attack that kept Tualatin's big blockers guessing all evening.

'Height doesn't matter,' said Southridge Amber Manthe, one of just two seniors on the team. 'Our motto is the 'taller the tree, the harder it falls.' '

The Shyhawks chopped away at the Timberwolves' trio of 6-foot middle blockers by bringing a well-executed attack from all directions. Junior Cindy Chen led Southridge with 12 kills, often catapulting from the back to hammer down sets from junior Brittney Johnson (14 assists) and senior Ali Lefebvre (11 assists).

'A big thing for us is focus on offensive plays,' Southridge coach Brooke Mayo said. 'We want to make the other teams think and guess where the hitter is going. That helps to split those blocks.'

'We try to put it places where they're not,' Lefebvre added. 'We can't hit through the block because we're short, so we have to work the court.'

The lack of height also hinders the Skyhawks' block, which the team made up for with a high-energy defense.

'We have good chemistry and play well together,' Lefebvre said. 'We trust each other a lot and we scramble, which keeps us going.'

'We go after every ball,' Manthe added. 'We're so intense. You have to be. That's what makes the game fun.'

Another key for the Skyhawks was a diverse serving game that brought multiple jump servers launching balls at Tualatin's back row. Manthe, who had 10 kills, rocketed three of Southridge's five aces to help swing the momentum in the Skyhawks' favor.

The result was a sweep, though Southridge had to close strong each game, none more so then the finale. Tualatin took a 14-11 lead in the third game when Southridge charged back after Chen drilled a clean kill through the block and the Timberwolves were called for a lift on Catie Logan's serve to make it 16-16.

The teams played nearly point-for-point until Chen's jump serve landed just inside the end line for an ace and 21-19 lead. Southridge drew to match point when Jessica Ngyuen's serve was mishandled.

Two Shyhawk errors brought Tualatin within a point before Johnson set the left side for Manthe, who banged a kill off the block with the ball dropping just in front of a diving player for the victory.

Southridge pulled away midway through the first game behind the strong jump-serving of Chen, who served five straight points for a 17-12 lead. Manthe made it 23-15 when her cross-court kill landed just inside the left sideline. The Skyhawks reached game point when Lefebvre set Chen for a big swing off Tualatin's block to end a long volley.

Tualatin rallied to win the next six points before Chen smacked a kill through the block on the left side for the 25-18 win.

The Skyhawks took charge in the second game behind Manthe. She raced up from the back row for a hard kill just inside the back line for an 18-13 lead, then ripped consecutive service aces that fired up the Southridge student section.

'It's one of those feelings when you know you're on,' Manthe said. 'I can't really explain it. It's just the best feeling ever to dominate the other side.'

A trio of Chen kills helped Southridge reach game point after she snuck in from the back row for a tip over the Tualatin block. The Timberwolves' attack sailed long as the Skyhawks took the second game.

'The girls are motivated to do well,' Mayo said. 'They set high goals and everyone is on board to reach those goals.'

Among them would be advancing to the Chiles Center for the state tournament after losing in the first round of the state playoffs the last two seasons.

'The goal is to go all the way,' Manthe said.

'Defense and smart play will get us there,' Lefebvre added.

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