Century volleyball takes down Forest Grove 3-1
Despite swimming against a current of Forest Grove momentum, the Century Jaguars turned the tide in the nick of time to defeat the visiting Vikings in four sets Wednesday evening, Sept. 22, at Century High School.
Ahead two sets to one, but having lost the third set and trailing 17-15 in the fourth, junior Tehya Militante woke her team from its near-two-set slumber and led the Jags on a 10-3 run, ending with the outside hitter's match-clinching ace.
Century head coach Melissa Salness said Militante used to play more in the middle but recently moved outside. At 5-foot-4, she's not your typical outside hitter, but the coach said her athleticism and intelligence far exceed her stature on the court.
"She has a really high volleyball IQ," Salness said. "She's one of the most consistent volleyball players and we trust her in the front row, back row, and with any ball that comes to her. She just does a great job."
Militante finished with 13 kills and four aces, none bigger than the game-winner. But it was her work — along with that of senior Kimy Anderson and junior Kiomi Tanakura — that led to an effortless 25-12 first-set win.
Things weren't quite so easy in the second set, as Forest Grove — with help from Alli Klaus and Valentina Raggi — made Century fight for a 25-20 win. That Vikings momentum carried over into the third set, in which Raggi, a transfer student from Italy, almost singlehandedly led her team to victory, digging out Jaguar kills, setting up her teammates, and, when called upon, ending points with aggressive and pinpoint attacks from the net.
Raggi has become more of a focal point for the Vikes as the season has progressed, and with the team missing starting outside hitter Chloe Hefner and return specialist Hailey Yon due to illness and injury, they leaned even more heavily on the Italian for leadership — something head coach Amber Lieb said has become apparent in recent matches.
"The funny thing is, Valentina has always been great — I just think the issue has been I've underutilized her," Lieb said. "With players being out, she was put in some different positions, and she's absolutely shined. I think she's been capable this whole time. I just didn't have her in that position, and that's my fault."
Raggi wasn't the only Forest Grove player who showed out either. Lieb pointed out the work of Klaus, her sister Abbi, and senior Diana Real, who was moved from defensive specialist to the front row for the match with the Jags.
"With people being out, we had to put Abbi outside and her sister Alli in the middle," Lieb said. "Then Diana played in the left front, which I don't think she's done since junior high. We did most of that in the third set, and it worked out well for us."
It did. In fact, the Vikes took the third set 25-12 and immediately took control of the fourth before Militante changed the course.
Salness wasn't entirely pleased with her team's overall effort, but she was happy with the win and the manner in which her team fought back after Forest Grove seized the momentum.
"That first set, we came out firing on all cylinders and had very minimal errors, but we tried some different lineups on the second and third sets and fell short," Salness said. "We went back to what had been working in the final set, and the girls battled, for which I'm really proud of them."
Lieb, too, was proud of her team, which continued to fight despite the early hole and being shorthanded.
"I was overjoyed with their effort, and the girls made me very proud," the Forest Grove coach said. "I told the girls they have no reason to hang their heads, because a couple of years ago, in situations like this, we probably would've given up. And I don't feel like we ever gave up last night."
Nor did the Jags, and it's that fight coupled with their continued improvement that has Salness looking forward after their win over the Vikings.
"We're almost halfway through the season, and we're working hard and doing well," the Century coach said. "I think this team has a really good chance of making the playoffs and I'm excited to see where they can go."
Forest Grove was led by Raggi's nine kills, while Abbi and Alli Klaus added six apiece.
Militante's 13 kills led the way for the Jags, while Samarea Barber tallied 10, Tanakura had 8, and Anderson 4.
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