St. Paul falls 3-2 at Kennedy, but turns around to beat pair of top-10 teams in Heppner and Weston-McEwen

MT. ANGEL — Sometimes there's only so much a person or team can do to get a win. If one does that and doesn't come out victorious, then their opponent simply played better and deserved to win.

That's how the St. Paul volleyball team felt after falling 3-2 at rival Kennedy Oct. 5. PHIL HAWKINS -- WOODBURN INDEPENDENT - Karlee Southerland and Emma Connor celebrate a point Oct. 5 during St. Paul's 3-2 road loss to Kennedy. The Bucks bounced back with wins over top-10 teams Heppner and Weston-McEwan on Saturday.

"They were just on fire," SPHS coach Lesli Hiller said. "They had three just amazing hitters and couldn't do anything wrong that night. They were just on. Some teams have their moments and that was their moment."

Although the Buckaroos had swept the Trojans 3-0 in their first meeting, Hiller said Kennedy was pretty much a different team this time around.

In the first matchup, the Trojans struggled mightily with their passing, which prevented them from setting up their strong hitters. In fact, Kennedy had not lost since that setback Sept. 12, winning nine consecutive games entering the rematch.

This time around, freshman libero Hailey Arritola was a dervish in the back row, which allowed the Trojans to run their offense quite efficiently.

"She just dominated their back row and they didn't have the same problems," Hiller said. "We were basically able to keep them out of system last time so they couldn't set it up and we didn't have to worry about their hitters."

St. Paul won the opening set 25-20 and the third 25-19, but dropped the second 25-16 and fourth 25-22 to force a fifth set.

Arritola further put her stamp on that set by stringing together a long run of serves to power Kennedy (16-5, 6-2 Tri-River Conference) to a 15-5 win.

"We had our moments and a few wins out of it, too, but when it all came down to it, it was their night," Hiller said.

Sophomore Isabelle Wyss led the Bucks with 15 kills and senior Logan Robinson added 11, with sophomore middle blocker Erin Counts adding four kills and 11 blocks.

The Bucks have prided themselves on playing a demanding schedule and last week epitomized that as they turned around after the loss and traveled with Kennedy to Sherman County High School for a four-way match versus Heppner and Weston-McEwen, both who were ranked in the top 10.

"It's been a good experience and we love the competition," Hiller said. "We just love playing at the 2A level."

St. Paul opened with a 25-22, 25-18, 25-16 win over Heppner, with Wyss pounding a team-high 11 kills, then turned around and bested Weston-McEwen 25-22, 15-25, 18-25, 25-14, 15-10 in a five-set thriller. Wyss added 11 more kills and Robinson had seven kills and two aces.

"Every player was a factor in these wins," Hiller said. "Our strong bench helped us to pace ourselves well and when we got tired six games into it we focused and were 'all in' to come back strong and win the last two. We showed great mental toughness and team growth."

The Bucks (12-7, 7-3) entered the week ranked No. 4 ahead of their showdown with league-leading and No. 3 Central Linn (17-2, 9-1) and lost 3-1 at home Tuesday. That result virtually assured the regular season title for the Cobras, while also locking Kennedy (17-5, 7-2) into second and St. Paul into third with one week remaining in the season.

The story was updated to reflect the results of contests played on Tuesday, Oct. 10.

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