COOS BAY — The Marshfield volleyball regular season has played out much like a typical Marshfield volleyball match. The Pirates looked good early, stumbled around in the middle portion before, ultimately, finding a way to win.
A series of runs throughout the season that saw the Pirates win six of the first seven matches, then lose seven of the next 10 before righting the ship to win six of the last seven on the way to a second place Sky-Em finish. Marshfield will now go on the road to face No. 3 Sweet Home on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
“We knew going in (to the season) that there would be those highs and lows,” said Marshfield head coach Tammie Montiel. “We saw that from week to week, sometimes from set to set or point to point. I think definitely we’ve peaked at the right time and we have kind of come into our own.”
Entering the season, it was a group of primarily unproven players tasked with leading the Pirates. Last year’s team — that graduated six seniors — was ranked as high as No. 8 in state and before this year’s team could have hopes of putting together a successful year, they first had to get to know each other on the court.
“In the beginning we were not quite meshed together completely. We had a whole different rotation than we’re running now,” said junior Cedar Ward, who leads the team in kills this season averaging over 10 per match. “We’ve gone through so many different changes since the beginning of the season and now we’re just trusting each other. We’re trusting how much we want to play and be on the court and just play volleyball together.”
After taking care of a favorable nonleague schedule at the start of the season, the Pirates stumbled early against some of the top teams in the 4A classification, including matches against No. 4 Junction City, No. 6 Hidden Valley and No. 7 Banks.
The early league-play losses started stacking up as Marshfield fell to Cottage Grove and then a Marist Catholic team that finished the year with four wins.
“I don’t really know what happened in the middle of the season,” said senior outside hitter Jamie Foster. “But I know we’re a lot more confident and we’re a lot more helpful to each other which really helped bring us back.
“I think we just realized that we wanted to start winning games. We were tired of losing and I think it just hit us all at the same time and we were ready to go.”
In the second-half of the Sky-Em season, the Pirates went on to avenge losses to the Lions and Spartans to set up a dramatic final day of the season. Needing a win against Elmira and a Cottage Grove loss, the Pirates took care of business while the Spartans beat the Lions in four close sets, creating a tie for second place.
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To settle the tie between Marshfield and Cottage Grove, the team’s met last Wednesday in Siuslaw where it was the Pirates beating the Lions in five sets to secure second and avoid having to play a play-in game.
The prospect of a second place finish seemed all but impossible halfway through the season, but through continued defensive success mixed with offensive growth, Marshfield found ways to win.
“We were a lot more predictable early on in the season just because of people getting used to what they can do in their new positions,” said Montiel. “I think now we’ve bought into our middles need to be more reactive and you know, changing our shots up and that we can’t just hit cross court as hard as we can every single time. And they’re getting smarter.”
With Ward leading the way with kills, she has not been alone as Taylor Londo and Foster have become reliable threats both averaging six kills a match. Londo — who has done a little of everything for the Pirates after starting as the primary setter, averaging 15 assists and eight digs per match — has helped the offense become more dynamic as they can now strike from anywhere.
“I think it gives a lot of the players a lot more confidence and since we’re spreading the sets out, we’re not just focusing on one hitter,” she said. “The other team, it throws them off. They can’t know (where the ball is going) if we’re going all over the place.”
Marshfield has also had big contributions from senior libero Makenna Anderson who leads the team in digs with 14 per match. Reagan Rhodes has averaged four assists and three kills per match.
Having put the pieces together and playing its best volleyball of the season at the right time of the year, Marshfield now has its toughest match of the year against No. 3 Sweet Home. The Huskies (18-2) have lost just six sets over the course of the entire season.
While Montiel has a film-session planned for the team to get a look at what has made Sweet Home so successful, ultimately, the Pirates are focused on themselves.
“All I want from my team is to just believe in ourselves and not be intimidated by the fact that they’re third in state which is a big deal,” said Ward. “I’m just wanting us to go out there and play our hearts out. Whatever happens, happens.”