Volleyball: Kennedy triumphs over St. Paul
When the Kennedy and St. Paul volleyball teams met for the first time this season in September, the Trojans turned in arguably their worst game of the year in a 3-0 loss to the Buckaroos. In Thursday's rematch at Kennedy High School, the Bucks got to witness the opposite, watching Kennedy rebound from a 2-1 deficit to score a 3-2 victory (20-25, 25-16, 19-25, 25-22, 15-5) and cement their place in the three-team race for the top in the Tri-River Conference.
Thursday's game pit two of the top teams in the state against each other. No. 4 St. Paul was hoping to gain a game on the league-leading No. 3 Central Linn Cobras, who lost two days earlier to the No. 5 Trojans in a thrilling five-game set.
But that meant stopping a Kennedy team that has been on fire since the team's loss at St. Paul early in the season.
"That game was very unusual," Kennedy Head Coach Laura Beyer said. "We have not had a game like that all season."
Since then, Kennedy went on a nine-game win streak that included handing Central Linn their first league loss. The Trojans carried that momentum into Thursday's win anchored by a freshman libero Hailey Arritola, who went 11 straight serves in the fifth game to deliver victory in the Tri-River rivalry.
"I think our win on Tuesday against Central Linn fired us up. Getting that win was a big deal for us," Arritola said. "We came in here thinking if we can beat them, we can beat St. Paul for sure."
After the two teams traded wins in the opening pair of games, the Trojans were dealt a tough blow when senior captain Tressa Riedman went up for a block at the net in the third game and came down on the foot of a St. Paul player, rolling her ankle and taking her out of the game. The Bucks went on to win that game, but the loss of one of their key players kindled a fire under Kennedy.
"We have been plagued with injuries the past couple weeks," Beyer said. "They all have that battling spirit. Pulling together when they need to pull together. They wanted to win this for Tressa. They were really focused."
Minus a late-game rally by the Buckaroos, Kennedy controlled the fourth game to force game five, where Arritola caught fire from the service line and rallied her team to victory.
"She just got on a roll serving," St. Paul Head Coach Les Hiller said. "Some of them we were getting up and sending it over, but Kennedy was just staying on top of it. It's one of those things where you take a time out and you think you'll get it back, but you realize you're calling time out the second time and it's the same kid still serving.
"She played amazing that last game and all night. She was under everything. I kept trying to avoid her when I would call the serve, but she was right there every time. She really dominated their back row and played amazing," Hiller continued.
After the game, Kennedy kept stretching its win streak to 11 games with a 3-1 win over No. 8 Heppner at the Sherman County tournament before falling 3-2 to No. 6 Weston-McEwen.
St. Paul was also at Sherman County over the weekend, defeating Heppner 3-0 and Weston-McEwen 3-2 to finish their week on a strong note.
With two weeks left to go in the regular season, Kennedy (16-5, 6-2 Tri-River) and St. Paul (12-6, 7-2 TRC) have firmly planted themselves in the state playoff race along with Central Linn (16-2, 8-1 TRC). Kennedy has split the series with both teams and is looking to finish out the season with four wins to earn a share of second place.
St. Paul and Central Linn were scheduled to play Tuesday. A Cobra victory would hand Central Linn control of the conference, but if the Bucks win, it could mean a three-way tie between all three teams.
Regardless of how the regular season finishes out, these three programs will be a tough draw for any team come state playoff time.
"It's been an interesting year, but we'll definitely be strong at state," Hiller said.