ALBANY — From the start of the first set it was clear: the West Albany volleyball team was going to play fast. Using short, quick sets and an inclusive offensive attack, No. 3 ranked West Albany defeated North Bend 25-7, 25-14, 25-12 in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs on Saturday.
“It was quicker. It was a lot quicker than what we’ve previously experienced,” said North Bend head coach Jessica Randle. “I would say they didn’t throw the big hitters we were used to, it was just quicker.”
In the battle of the Bulldogs, it was West Albany’s offense just overwhelming North Bend. West Albany was getting clean hit after clean hit that North Bend struggled to either block or dig up. West Albany was not limited to just one offensive threat but relied on firepower across the board as Gracie Boeder had nine kills and Madie Dowell and Hannah Stadstad both added eight.
“Every girl they put in brought a strong arm and they were smart. It wasn’t like they had two outstanding girls, it was their whole team was strong and they were stacked. They were all quick,” said North Bend’s Kait Randle.
“Our blockers had to get there and if you didn’t, you were kind of stomped. That’s what we struggled with. We definitely have a great defense but we’re used to the slower game and we’re able to pick those ones up and when it was a little faster like that we weren’t quite ready for that.”
In the first set North Bend cut its deficit to one with a 5-4 scoreline before West Albany recorded a dominant 20-3 run to put the set away.
The second set was more of the same. North Bend put together a few mini-runs throughout the set, but West Albany’s defense hung tough throughout. Sydney Backer had 25 digs and Dowell 19 for West Albany.
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“Our back row defense is just amazing,” said West Albany head coach Kelli Backer. She was also complimentary of her team’s relentless offensive attack. “Lots of options and they’re all good options. Anyone of them can get it done at any time. They just get along really well with each other and that chemistry carries onto the court and they’ve played with that flow all season long.”
North Bend clawed its way to some early points and was at a competitive scoreline of 11-7 before West Albany took off and closed the final set with a 14-5 run.
In that set, North Bend suffered a hand injury to Michelle Gochnour and an ankle injury to Olivia Knutson. Neither player returned to play.
Kait Randle led North Bend in kills with six. Isabelle Peck had 10 digs for the visiting Bulldogs while Maya Massey recorded six blocks.
“I’m nothing but proud of my team. I definitely think coming into the season we were definitely like, we can’t get much worse,” said Kait Randle of the team that went 0-16 in league play in 2018. “Coming in and basically learning how to win again, and coming to the playoffs after we didn’t win a single game last year. I’m just proud of them.”
As West Albany prepares to take on North Eugene next weekend in the state quarterfinals, North Bend’s Jessica Randle was able to reflect on the growth from this season. Randle had nothing but praise for the team that includes a group of seniors, including her daughter Kait, that she has coached since fifth grade.
“I always mark every season with a success when they genuinely still like each other. And I think we accomplished that goal. I think that they’re going to take memories from this forever,” said Jessica Randle. “Twenty years from now, does this game matter? Yeah it matters, but 20 years from now it matters that they were kind of the ‘Bad News Bears’ kids and they made it to playoffs so it was really cool. So we’ll take that from them.”