COOS BAY — Pirate Palace was the place to be for some of the top Class 4A volleyball teams from around the state on Saturday.
Making what turned into a six-hour drive south was eighth ranked Banks (4-2) while journeying three hours north was fourth ranked Hidden Valley (5-1). Looking to get the most out of the nonleague portion of the schedule, the Braves and Mustangs played each other in addition to taking on Marshfield (6-3), which shares the No. 8 ranking with Banks.
Validating their high ranking was the Mustangs who defeated Marshfield 25-11, 25-17, 25-18 and Banks 27-25, 25-21, 25-20. With a loss to Banks, Marshfield finished 0-2 on the day.
“It’s nice to know that we are right there. It’s just getting over that hump and getting to that next level,” said Marshfield head coach Tammie Montiel. “But we’re only going to continue to get better — and these teams are going to get better as the season progresses as well — but I think it just makes us that much more prepared for our league play when we get a chance to play teams like this in the preseason.”
In the first match of the day, Banks defeated Marshfield 25-17, 25-21, 28-26 in competitive straight sets. Marshfield’s Jamie Foster had 10 kills against the Braves while Cedar Ward recorded nine kills and nine digs.
Banks seemed to have an answer for the Pirates at every turn. In the first set Marshfield was in control before a 17-4 run from the Braves put the set away. It was a wire-to-wire second set for Banks that saw the Marshfield cut the deficit to as few as one point but never break through.
Staying within four throughout the third set, the teams traded points until the Braves used the strength of their hitters to finish off the match.
“It was a little bit of an up and down battle. But we had the mentality of ‘I want to go up, I want to play these opponents tough, I want to win mentally,’” said Banks head coach Aubrey Rue. “First match, we did exactly that. Second match, I think fatigue started to set in and I think Hidden Valley is a very good opponent. But I think we were getting back to where we need to be.”
In their second match of the day, the Pirates got a crack at the talented Hidden Valley side, but it was the Mustangs, led by dominant senior outside hitter Elizabeth Devos, sweeping Marshfield. Devos finished with 12 kills, including seven in the first set that saw Hidden Valley power past the Pirates on the way to a 25-11 finish.
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Hidden Valley head coach Todd Lomica praised Montiel’s ability as a volleyball tactician and was determined to rely on the strength of his hitters.
“I knew I wasn’t going to beat her on the chess board, but I had to beat her on the front line. We have a taller team and I think that helped a little bit today. (Marshfield) is vertically challenged but really fundamentally one of the better teams we’ve seen all season just in terms of court coverage, mechanics. I wish I had everyone on my team at the level her team is at,” said Lomica.
Marshfield stayed closer in the next two sets, and had a four point lead in the third set, but Hidden Valley was too powerful to hold down and responded each time. In the third set the Mustangs were again helped by Devos who, this time, bested the Pirates through her serve as she recorded five aces in a row.
“She was great,” said Marshfield’s Ward of Devos. “It was just like, our block was there and then the ball wasn’t there — how did that happen? She was so good.”
Ward had eight digs and three kills against Hidden Valley. Foster had eight kills while Taylor Londo had five.
Between Marshfield’s matches Hidden Valley beat Banks in straight sets. Devos was again dominant recording 17 kills.
Marshfield has one nonleague game — Tuesday’s road game against North Valley — before starting Sky-Em league play at Junction City on Thursday. The Tigers were ranked sixth in the latest coaches’ poll.
As the Pirates prepare for a strong Junction City team, a Cottage Grove side that looks different but still played in last year’s championship and a Marist Catholic team that Montiel noted is better than its winless record, they are looking to use Saturday’s competition as a stepping stone.
“It’s just going to prepare us to step onto those courts and not feel defeated because we lost these two games, but know that we can play with some of the best teams in the state and we’re right in there with them,” said Montiel.