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Volleyball team passes the Bucks to reach playoffs

Sandy downs Pendleton in four sets to claim its qualifier match


by: SANDY POST: PARKER LEE - Sandys McKenzie Nolin puts a set in play last week vs. Pendleton. The Pioneers were backed into a corner, but with their season on the line, they fought their way out – twice.

The Sandy volleyball team shocked the Pendleton Buckaroos in last Tuesday’s play-in qualifier by erasing huge deficits in each of the first two sets, and eventually winning 3-1 (26-24, 25-20, 16-25, 25-23).

“It was all them. We didn’t do it with a timeout or anything,” Sandy coach Chris Meyers said. “They straightened themselves out, and they just played.”

Pendleton seized control of the match as soon as it began, and it looked like the playoffs were going to slip away from the Pioneers. The Buckaroos opened up a 7-1 lead to start the first set, then stretched it to 14-5. Sandy narrowed the gap by a few points, but Pendleton seemed to have the game locked up when it went up 23-17. With no more margin for error, the Pioneers looked at Meyers for encouragement, advice or anything else to help them get out of the jam they were in. Meyers only clapped his hands and said, “It’s time to go.” That was all it took.

Sandy instantly shaped up and scored seven straight points to swipe a one-point edge, forcing Pendleton to call a timeout. The Buckaroos ended the run by taking the first point after the timeout, but Sandy scored the next two to steal the set.

The second game also saw the Buckaroos build a lead late, but they couldn’t keep Sandy down. Pendleton had a good handle on the set when it went up 20-15, then the Pioneers stormed back and went on a 10-0 run to rip another game right out of Pendleton’s hands.

The Buckaroos didn’t give up, either, and they snagged Game 3 by going on a 9-0 run to break a 15-15 tie.

Neither squad had much of a lead to give up in the fourth set as both teams passionately battled for every point. Pendleton held a slight advantage for the first half of the set, but never led by more than a couple points. The tides turned when Sandy won the longest rally of the match to tie the set at 16-16. The Buckaroos expelled so much energy on the play and came away with nothing, but the Pioneers found their second wind by claiming the long point. Sandy never trailed again and held off the Buckaroos for a two-point win.

A major factor in Sandy’s late-set success was its ability to stay composed in big moments. Even when the Pioneers were behind, they appeared loose and positive. Pendleton, by contrast, looked overly tense and rigid when it could have finished out sets. The Buckaroos’ tightness led to a host of mental mistakes – mistakes that Sandy stayed away from. Several times throughout the match, Pendleton lost points for running into the net or lifting the ball. Not surprisingly, the match ended with a Buckaroo touching the net.

Junior Alex Ford fueled Sandy’s attack, just as she did during the regular season. She led the team in kills with 21, digs with 17 and blocks with three. Senior Kayla Anderson had a nice performance in her final match at home as she recorded 10 kills and 16 digs. Junior Bekah Mather supplied eight kills, two blocks and four service aces. Madison Kansala was also stepped up for Sandy, both hitting the ball and setting it. She was one of the catalysts for the team’s comebacks in the first two sets.

The win sent the Pioneers to the playoffs just two years after the team finished 2-15.

“Making the playoffs is huge,” Meyers said. “This group of seniors has worked so hard for three years to turn the program around and accomplish this. It speaks volumes about who they are, what they are made of and what they are about.”

Sandy travelled to top-ranked West Albany on Saturday for its first-round matchup and fell 25-16, 25-9, 25-15 to the defending 5A champs.