NORTH BEND — North Bend’s volleyball team picked a bad night for probably its worst match of the season.

The Bulldogs were off their game and Churchill played great as the Lancers beat the Bulldogs in four sets, 25-20, 25-22, 18-25, 25-16.

It was North Bend’s first loss of the season and dropped the Bulldogs into a first-place tie with the Lancers in the Midwestern League loss column, each with one setback to the other on its own court (Churchill has played one more match overall, so technically leads the standings at 9-1 to 8-1 for the Bulldogs).

“I don’t think our heads were in it,” North Bend coach Summer Sawyer said. “I don’t think we were mentally tough.

“We just got outplayed. We didn’t make the plays we needed to.”

North Bend was missing one of its key players due to COVID-19, but that wasn’t the only challenge.

“We were uncharacteristically messy,” Sawyer said, referring to, among other things, two players going for the same ball on multiple occasions.

“That’s not something we’ve done all season.”

Churchill, took advantage.

“They played a phenomenal game,” Sawyer said.

North Bend got off to a slow start in the first set and didn’t play well in much of the second, but still was in position for a possible win late in each set, with Churchill ultimately prevailing.

It looked like the match might end early when Churchill turned a 6-4 deficit into a 14-6 lead in the third set, but North Bend squad had its best stretch of the match and pulled ahead to take an easy win to extend the match.

The momentum didn’t last though, with Churchill pulling ahead early and keeping the lead.

As they did throughout the match, the Lancers vocally celebrated each big hit, block or ace.

North Bend wasn’t nearly as vocal in its celebrations.

“It was a down night,” said Olivia Knutson. “A lot of peoples’ energies weren’t high. It was off.”

Like her coach, Knutson gave the Lancers credit.

“They were together,” she said. “We were not.

“They were playing great.”

The Bulldogs got occasional big hits by Bridget Gould and Mya Massey and a few blocks at the net. The defense was good for portions of the night, including in several long points, but those often ended with the Lancers celebrating.”

Making matters tough in the final set, both Knutson, the team’s setter, and Sydney Wilson, its libero, had to leave the floor because of cramping in their lower legs.

Ultimately, though, Churchill was just better in the key district match.

North Bend had won its first eight league matches, and all but one of those (a five-set battle with Thurston) in a sweep.

Knutson said it’s important for the Bulldogs to bounce back quickly.

They have matches Monday and Tuesday.

“Moving forward, we need to get our game going (again),” Knutson said.

 The Bulldogs got off to their strong start in part because they are a lineup strong on seniors who have been playing together for years.

That should help the team rebound from its first loss.

“A lot of us are seniors,” Knutson said. “I know that we are a better team.

“We will come back strong.”

The Bulldogs can gain from their defeat, Sawyer said.

“I think we are going to use this,” she said. “It’s definitely a learning curve.

“It just shows we have work to do to get different players in the rotation.”

Sawyer noted that sophomores Lennon Riddle and Emma Spalding both played well filling in during the match.

The Bulldogs hope to grow as they head to the rest of the season.

“I am excited to look ahead to next week,” Sawyer said.

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