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Team kept its eye on the ball and swept a crosstown three-way against Milwaukie and Putnam.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - La Salle Prep senior setter Avery Richards (4) celebrates a successful kill by fellow senior Olivia Maulding (15) during the Falcons' three-set win over Putnam on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at Milwaukie High School.

Even as a big game looms on the horizon, the La Salle Prep volleyball is focused on the here and now.

With a weekend tournament and a rematch with undefeated Wilsonville coming up on the schedule, the Falcons (14-2, 12-1 NWOC) kept their eyes on the ball and swept a crosstown three-way with Milwaukie and Putnam on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at Milwaukie High School.

In the first match of the day, La Salle and Milwaukie (0-17, 0-13 NWOC) battled closely throughout most of the first set. The Falcons eventually were able to connect and turn up the throttle, winning in three sets (25-19, 25-17, 25-7) over the Mustangs. In the second match of the day, La Salle beat Putnam in another three-setter (25-17, 25-14, 27-25) to earn citywide bragging rights.

Still, both matches served as good reminders that every team in the league, be it undefeated Wilsonville or winless Milwaukie, must be taken seriously.

"Milwaukie's libero (Jazell Allen) had some amazing digs against us," said La Salle Prep senior libero Mallorie Taylor after the win over the Mustangs. "There's a lot of talented athletes in the league, a lot of two-sport athletes who can really jump out of the gym, can swing super hard, have that serve game.

"All the teams have a lot of talent," Taylor added of her Northwest Oregon Conference counterparts. "It's just seeing how well they can apply that to their team chemistry."

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - La Salle Prep head coach Anna Dillard (middle) speaks to the Falcons between matches during a crosstown three-way with Milwaukie and Putnam on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at Milwaukie High School.

The Falcons surely respect their opponents, but they are more concerned with their own play, according to senior middle blocker Olivia Maulding.

"One of the mottos we live by is, 'We play the ball, not the opponent,'" Maulding said between matches Wednesday. "We try to look at our side rather than the other side."

What Maulding and Taylor see when they looks at their side is a team that gets stronger every day as its players learn to work together as a cohesive unit.

"We really play better when we're playing together as a team, with everybody buying in and giving their all that day," Taylor said. "We have a lot of girls who just came up from JV and are getting in the rhythm this year."

"You can really tell how we're playing based on our focus level," Maulding added. "When we're focused, we're on our 'A' game. When we're not, it's pretty obvious."

Maulding cited the Falcons' 3-1 loss to Wilsonville on Sept. 15 as an example of the team losing focus and subsequently losing the match.

"I think we've taken some really big strides since then," she added.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - La Salle Prep senior middle blocker Olivia Maulding (15) gets a kill over Putnam's Rylee Lemen (14) during the Falcons' three-set win over the Kingsmen on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at Milwaukie High School.

Despite their excitement for the rematch with Wilsonville — the biggest game left on the schedule before the state playoffs — the Falcons remained focused only on the task at hand: beating the opponent in front of them.

"There's a lot more attention for the Wilsonville game whenever we match up against them, but it's really important to remember that every team matters," said Taylor after the Milwaukie match on Wednesday. "We can't be focusing on (Wilsonville) right now. We have to be focusing on our next game, which is Putnam, then on our tournament, then on Wilsonville.

"But once that comes, we'll be ready," Taylor added.

So far, so good.

La Salle Prep defeated Putnam (10-8, 9-4 NWOC) in three sets, taking down a likely playoff team with relative ease. The Falcons still can't turn their heads toward Wilsonville, though, as they will first take part in a tournament at Jefferson High School on Saturday, Oct. 15, which features Crescent Valley, one of the other top teams in Class 5A.

Then, finally, the Falcons will have their date with Wilsonville (20-0, 13-0 NWOC) on Monday, Oct. 17, at Wilsonville High School.

Regardless of what happens on Monday, though, La Salle Prep will stay focused only on its own game — playing the ball, and not the opponent — as the team prepares for a deep run in the state tournament.

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