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After nine years away from the postseason, the Vikings returned and put up a fight in the Guardians' home gym.

PMG PHOTO: AUSTIN WHITE - The Forest Grove volleyball team celebrates after scoring a point against Ida B. Wells during the first round of the 6A state tournament Oct. 26, 2022, at Ida B. Wells High School.

Ida B. Wells High School volleyball went into boss mode from the jump against No. 18 Forest Grove in the first round of the 2022 6A state tournament Wednesday night, hosted by No. 15 Wells.

Senior libero Kate Rodgers had five aces on an 8-0 run in the first set that put the Guardians up 9-3, setting the tone for the match.

The Guardians went on to sweep the Vikings 25-20, 25-23, 25-22 to advance to the second round of the state tournament behind solid serves and well spread attack.

But with Forest Grove possessing some powerful outside hitters, Rodgers and the back row had a difficult task that they handled with grace.

"Kate's been killing it all year, no different tonight," Wells coach Mark Mendak said. "She's done a couple runs serving the ball, I think 11 or 12 is her record … She's been working hard and is an asset to the team for sure."

Rodgers chipped in a couple kills in that first set also as Wells kept Forest Grove at a distance the rest of the way after going up 9-3.

The second set was more of the same as the Guardians jumped out to a 6-0 lead, but the Vikings weren't going to let their first postseason appearance in nine years be spoiled that quickly.

CHECK THE BRACKET: Check out all the results from round one and more of the Oregon high school volleyball state tournaments

Strong hitters in Jaydn Puncochar and Hannah Carlson powered the Vikings back into the set, eventually tying it up at 17 and then taking a 23-22 lead on a kill from Carlson.

However, Wells' depth of attackers took over as Chloe Nelson pounded the floor with a swing, followed by an ace from Eleanor Pigg and a final kill from Kira Krueger for the 25-23 second set win.

"We watched film a lot during practice and we worked specifically with the setters to see what works best like shoots or cuts," Wells junior Zoe Mish said. "I think my coach really helped me, telling me where to put that ball, and it worked."

Mish did most of her work from the left side, picking up nine kills while her fellow junior Carly Straub held down the middle with seven kills and a block.

When it wasn't those two, Sydney Hett, Lucia Hagen, Krueger and Nelson all went to work at the net as well, giving the Vikings all they could handle with different looks and angles from the Guardians stable of attackers.

"We didn't get a whole lot of touches, that was kind of the difference I think, that and our serve-receive," Forest Grove coach Jeff Leo said. "We served-received really well the last month, but we just got really tight tonight and we weren't moving our feet. That's part of the nerves."

The Vikings shook the nerves off a bit in the third, jumping out to a 5-1 lead early. But then the Guardians block with Straub in the middle started forcing some errant shots to get Wells back in front 8-7.

From there, Forest Grove stayed close, but a couple kills from Mish and Straub helped put the third set to bed. And of course credit for spreading the Wells' attack around goes to senior setter Pigg.

PMG PHOTO: AUSTIN WHITE - Forest Grove volleyball's Rory Fix (11) goes up for a block against Ida B. Wells during the first round of the 6A state tournament Oct. 26, 2022, at Ida B. Wells High School.

"Eleanor controls the flow and she makes the choices and she does a great job," Mendak said. "We let her do her thing, she's smart and she knows the offense."

While Pigg was her normal self and connected with all of the Guardians hitters, the back row around Rodgers did their part of digging out plenty of the Vikings big spikes in the third set as well.

"Kate is in boss mode when she's on the court," Mish said. "Whenever she's back there, our whole team trusts her. She's in the jersey for a reason."

For Forest Grove, a first-round exit is nothing for the Vikings to hang their hands about after missing out on the postseason the past nine years.

"We had our goals at the beginning of the year and getting them to believe, 'Hey, we're good enough to make the state playoffs,'" Leo said. "Very successful first season that I've been a part of this, making the playoffs and setting the stage for next year and the year after and make it a normal thing to make the playoffs."

No. 2 Westview took care of No. 31 Lincoln in straight sets to set up Wells next match coming up on Saturday, Oct. 29.

The two matched up during Westview's own tournament back on Oct. 1 with the Wildcats winning the match 2-0. However, Mish noted a number of Guardians players missed the match due to some mandatory testing.

The second round showdown will surely be a little tighter with the quarterfinals and a trip to Forest Grove High School on the line.

"We're pretty confident going into it," Mish said. "They do have a really strong hitting team, but I think what worked well that game was our serve, which we showed here tonight.

"I think if we take it one step at a time, we'll do great."


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