NORTH BEND — Four matches into the volleyball season North Bend has already eclipsed last season’s final win total. On Tuesday night the Bulldogs (3-1) recorded their latest victory in a five-set (20-25, 25-19, 19-25, 25-15, 15-13) home win against Springfield (0-3), but while the wins keep coming, it was anything but a celebratory mood after the team’s latest victory.
“It was an emotional evening,” said North Bend head coach Jessica Randle. “I can’t say that this is one of those wins that you just walk away and just go, ‘Yes!’ I have a laundry list of things that we can work on.”
It was a night of highs and lows for a North Bend team that is looking for stability. It was a constant give and take as there was Chelsea Howard leading the way with a team-high 14 kills while the Bulldogs struggled with routine passes. It was sophomore Mya Massey coming up with clutch plays at the net, but the team then missing serves.
It was North Bend going up 7-0 in the fifth set before Springfield came rushing back to get within one point of the Bulldogs before the home team could close out the set and match. This seesaw was enough to baffle Randle.
“Everybody had a few shining moments, but as for that consistency,” she said before trailing off. Adding, “The silver lining is that they learned how to win at the end but it took until game three to decide, ‘Oh my goodness, this might get real.’”
The Bulldogs were out of sync early. North Bend gifted the Millers with 11 points off of carries, illegal sets, service errors and miscommunication in the first set.
“One of the timeouts I said, ‘Ladies, I don’t know what to tell you right now. I don’t know what to say. If there are six of you that want to play volleyball right now, let’s get you on the court because, I’m kind of tired of monkeying around,’” said Randle.
Locked in a back and forth set, North Bend was abe to put points together in the second set to get an advantage. Helping the cause was Massey, who had four blocks and a kill in the final stretch of the set.
Massey finished the night with five stuff blocks and four kills.
“Well, it was kind of just — we had to win. We had to. It was so close and yeah. I don’t know, it was just stressful,” said Massey. “We’re not rock bottom anymore, so it’s nice.”
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After cutting down on errors, the Bulldogs looked poised to take control in the third set but Springfield, led by middle blocker Cameron Branch, kept attacking. It was an accordion of a game as Springfield stretched the lead to as many as seven but on three different occasions North Bend cut their deficit to two.
An excited and confident Springfield team, spurred on by support from both the visiting stands and the team’s bench, was able to find success.
“I tell my girls all the time, I don’t care what the score is, but I want any person that walks in this gym to know that we are winning, regardless of if we are or not. We celebrate everything,” said Springfield head coach Amanda Bottimore, who did not sit throughout the entire match.
“This is my cardio. I get yelled at quite often, I’ve been called the most annoying coach in the Midwestern League. But if I’m excited, my girls are excited ... and if that’s what they need, that’s what I will give them.”
But it was North Bend, showing flashes of brilliance, putting together a 10-2 run when it mattered most to force a fifth set. The Bulldogs were aided by nine kills on the night from senior Kait Randle and seven aces from sophomore Olivia Knutson.
“We can push through tough times together. Last year was definitely a learning year and taught us how to lose but this year, we know how to win,” said Knutson.
Going up early, North Bend was in full control in the final set with a seven-point lead before Springfield rallied behind Branch’s six kills in the set to make the score 10-9. But focused on one point at a time, as they have been all season, the Bulldogs squeaked out the win to stay undefeated at home on the year.
“I think after that run people were getting complacent and not focusing on the game and that we need to finish it. Play like it’s 0-0 and finish out the game,” said Knutson. “I want to start playing faster, playing harder, playing better volleyball. Making sure that we’re giving 110 percent effort all the time.”
North Bend will now make the 400-mile round trip journey to Eagle Point to take on the Eagles (0-3) on Thursday before returning home next Tuesday to play Churchill (1-3).