Wilsonville volleyball team beats La Salle in thriller
MILWAUKIE -- There were three major shifts in momentum during Thursday night's Wilsonville-La Salle Prep volleyball match inside La Salle's Brick Oven.
Wilsonville seized control early, then lost it, and then got it back when it mattered most – late in the fifth set.
With La Salle leading 12-8 in the fifth set, the visiting Wildcats mounted an impressive 7-0 run to close out a 25-23, 25-18, 20-25, 18-25, 15-12 Northwest Oregon Conference marathon that lasted about two and a half hours.
Wilsonville's Delaney Dougherty was on the service line for the final six points as the Wildcats (8-4, 7-2 NWOC) earned a split of the season series with La Salle and moved into a second-place tie with the Falcons (7-3, 7-2), two games behind league-leading Sandy.
The win also marked the first time that Wilsonville had defeated La Salle in league play since the Falcons joined the NWOC in 2014.
"We really had to pick up our energy at the end," Wildcats' outside hitter Tenley Lubisich said. "We never looked down. We all just leaned on one another and I think that's what made the difference.
"This is huge. We haven't beaten La Salle forever. At least, we can't think of the last time we did. So this is really great."
The Wildcats got the job done with setters Kennedy Juranek and Madison Schmitt feed their three big outside hitters -- Lindsey Hartford, Dougherty and Lubisich -- while libero Grace Thompson helped anchor the back line.
La Salle countered with Emma Hibler and Kacie Redmond doing most of the setting, and Katelyn Bell, Maggie Gabrish, Maddie Hansen and Caitlyn Young providing most of the power at the net.
The first set featured five lead changes and 10 ties before Wilsonville took a 23-22 lead on a Lubisich service ace and then put the set away with Hartford tipping the ball over La Salle's blockers and in front of the Falcons' back line.
In the second set, the Wildcats used a 14-5 run that turned an early 5-1 deficit into a 15-10 advantage, and then maintained at least a four-point cushion the rest of the way.
Tied at 18-18 in the third set, La Salle closed on a 7-2 run that ended with a Gabrish kill.
The Falcons then had a 16-14 lead in the fourth set when Hansen went to the service line and sparked a 9-4 run that ended with Wilsonville hitting two balls out of bounds.
In the fifth set, La Salle opened leads of 5-1, 9-5 and 12-8 before a double hit started the Falcons' final slide.
At 12-12, Hartford had the kill that put Wilsonville on top for the first time in the set, Lubisich then sent a shot off a La Salle blocker and out of bounds, and, finally, the Falcons hit a ball over the end line.
"One of the things great teams do is they can come back when they lose their rhythm," Wilsonville coach Nathan Blankenship said. "That last game, even though we were down, the girls stayed positive, and you didn't see anyone with their heads down. They were fighting for every point, right to the last moment.
"That's the maturity and grittiness that it takes to be a championship team. After this experience, this team will become a tougher team, a better team, because they understand now that they can come back from a deficit, stay tough, and wear a team down."
Hartford, the Wildcats' 6-foot sophomore, finished with a team-high 22 kills on 46 swings, while Dougherty added nine kills and Lubisich had eight. Dougherty also received 41 serves without an error, and Juranek had 27 assists and 15 digs.
"It was a tight match," Blankenship said. "La Salle is a very, very powerful team with a lot of weapons, and they have great court coverage. I was very pleased with our set slection and the way we ran our offense, using our big outsides, but mixing in a dominant middle at just the right times to keep La Salle of balance."
Next on Wildcat's schedule is Milwaukie (1-8 in league, 1-9 overall) on Monday, Oct. 2 in Wilsonville.
Tanner Russ contributed to this story.