COOS BAY — A fifth set seemed imminent.
Trailing two sets to one, the Marshfield volleyball team put together a 9-0 run in the fourth set against Junction City on Tuesday night at home to take a 24-17 lead. A point away from taking the fifth-ranked Tigers to a definitive fifth set, things began to spiral out of control for the Pirates.
Marshfield's Cedar Ward tips the ball Tuesday during a set against Junction City at Marshfield High School.
Scrapping for each point and using the blocking prowess of Sophia Francois, who saw out the set with a pair of stuff blocks, it was Junction City mounting a 9-0 run of its own to dramatically take the fourth set 26-24 to close out the match (10-25, 25-16, 25-21, 26-24).
“I don’t know whether they thought it’s in the bag, we can kind of stop playing and get ourselves ready for that fifth game or whether they just got real tentative,” said Marshfield head coach Tammie Montiel after the loss. “And hats off to Junction City, they kept the pressure on.”
During Marshfield’s initial run to nearly close out the set, the Pirates were in control. Senior Makenna Anderson recorded three aces in a row while the Tigers looked out of sorts with a spree of uncharacteristic errors. Junction City senior Brooklyn Nash had nearly conceded defeat for the set.
“(I was thinking) that we’re probably going to have to go to a fifth set and try to get all the energy on our side. They have a really big student section every year and so it really gets in our head sometimes,” said Nash, who led the Tigers with 11 kills and 19 digs. But a few points later, she was certain of the outcome. “Probably when we got 23-24, because that’s when we really started cheering and we were really excited.”
To get to that point, the tables turned as Junction City’s offense roared back to life while Marshfield struggled to keep the ball in play. And when the Pirates had opportunities, they were met at the net by the blocking duo of Francois and Allison Bedacht. Francois finished the match with nine blocks while Bedacht, who served the final nine points, had 10 kills and eight blocks.
The Pirates called timeouts at 24-21 and at 24-24, but no amount of regrouping could stop Junction City.
“This team, just the tenacity of them, they just don’t quit,” said Junction City head coach Gary Meininger who told his team to focus on one point at a time during the final stretch of play. “They’ve been doing it all year and that’s what makes the difference.”
Marshfield's Carmen Samuels bumps the ball Tuesday during a set against Junction City at Marshfield High School.
For Montiel, this grit and determination is exactly the edge that she wants to see from her side.
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“Physically they’re not any better of a team then we are right now. It’s just that they have the mental advantage on us right now,” said Montiel of Junction City. “They believe that they are going to win and we sometimes think we can win and sometimes just don’t think we can really compete and get over a hump and beat a team like that.”
In the first half of the Sky-Em league season, Marshfield was the only team to take a set off of Junction City. The Pirates were able to take another set on Tuesday night with their 25-10 first-set win. Marshfield’s Taylor Londo helped the Pirates to the team’s fast start. In the match Londo did a little of everything on her way to 21 digs, 19 assists, seven kills and three blocks. Cedar Ward had 11 kills, seven digs and four blocks for Marshfield. Anderson had 26 digs and four aces while Raegan Rhodes had 10 digs and six kills.
Marshfield attacked Junction City’s weaknesses early while the Tigers were out of sorts.
“I think we really came into it thinking oh this is going to be kind of a cake walk. Because we hadn’t lost a set in like 15 sets in a row or something,” said Junction City’s Nash. “And then I think as soon as we lost the first one everyone was like, okay, we really need to start working harder and get back into the game and stuff.”
Marshfield's Makenna Anderson bumps the ball Tuesday during a set against Junction City at Marshfield High School.
The Tigers rattled off a 7-1 lead in the second set and Junction City was in control before Marshfield rallied for a 14-13 lead. It was a short-lived lead as the Tigers promptly went on a 12-2 run to see out the set.
Within three points for nearly the whole set, Marshfield just couldn’t get past Junction City in the third set. Each successful kill seemed to be matched with an error. Junction City went down 7-6 before taking a lead that it would never relinquish.
Now with four league games left on the schedule, Marshfield’s focus turns toward a playoff push.
“Just hoping from here to win out the rest of league and that still puts us in a good position to maybe take that second place spot or at least, keep our ranking high enough that we can get one of the at-large bids,” said Montiel. “We’ve got to build off that that and look for those small victories along the way.”
Currently, Marshfield is ranked 14th and sitting in fourth in the Sky-Em League. Junction City is undefeated in league at the top of the table with Cottage Grove at 5-1 in second. While first and second seem to be locked in, the battle is the fight for third. Marist Catholic is at 3-3 in league while Marshfield and Siuslaw are both 2-4.
The Pirates travel to Cottage Grove on Thursday before going to Florence to face Siuslaw next Tuesday Oct. 15. The league season finishes with home matches against Marist Catholic on Oct. 17 and Elmira on Oct. 22.