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PIL volleyball is getting heated as the underdog Cardinal girls sweep the Warriors

The Portland Interscholastic League in volleyball is about to get weird.

Coming into the night, Cleveland High was 7-0 overall and cruising through the PIL at 4-0, only dropping two sets in the seven matches.

That didn't matter much to the home side in Lincoln as the Cardinals swept the Warriors out of the gym 30-28, 25-21, 25-19.

Here are three takeaways from the match:

Down but not out

Missing two middle blockers and just getting their defensive specialist back recently, Lincoln (4-3, 4-1 PIL) has had to plug in quite a few different players early on in the season.

However, their inexperience didn't show Thursday, Sept. 16, against Cleveland (7-1, 4-1 PIL) as the Cardinals battled through Warrior runs, and made some of their own.

None were bigger than the second set when Lincoln went on a 6-0 run to tie it at 15, and then used another 6-0 run to close out the set 25-21 after falling behind 21-19.

"I think we talked very well," Cardinals coach Shailah Ricketts said. "We struggled with that against Wells, and I think this match we talked very well. The communication was there, and we executed very well."

With freshmen in the lineup and an outside hitter or two under 5-foot-5, Lincoln knows communication and execution have to be on point.

Despite learning on the fly for some of the girls, senior Jillian Jendsen has seen how her squad can come together despite the injuries.

"It's just made us so much closer as a team," Jendsen said. "I think I can trust my girls with anything, and I think that came into play during (Thursday's) game. I'm over the moon."

Serve not received

On the other side, Cleveland will be kicking itself after committing 13 service errors, something that Warriors coach Sydney Hammond said has been their biggest strength so far this season with a 95% completion rate coming in on serves.

Often the errors brought about an end to a crucial run or deflated an intense moment, like the four errors that came in the first set after the score was tied at 24.

"At some point in the season we were going to face a loss," Hammond said. "It's a good opportunity for the girls to learn and grow from it, take it to heart. This one game isn't going to define our season."

Meanwhile on the Lincoln side, the Cardinals put down 14 aces on the Warriors, two of which came to close sets in the first and third frames.

Jendsen had three of the aces for Lincoln and also finished as the top hitter with 12 kills.

For Cleveland, senior Stella Blaha led the way with six kills and a couple blocks, but it was a tough night overall for the Warriors attacking as well, highlighted by four consecutive hitting errors to help the Cardinals finish off the second set.

"Stella is an amazing leader, and she's leading the team in kills right now," Hammond said. "Even tonight through the tough times, I could see her doing what she needs to do."

Underdog mentality

Moving forward for Lincoln, the challenge is not riding too high after the upset win but rather using it as a match to help steady the ship.

Also Thursday night, Wells suffered its first loss of the season with a three-set loss to Grant. The Generals and Guardians now sit atop the PIL at 5-1 with Lincoln and Cleveland right behind at 4-1 each.

"We just have to keep coming to every match thinking we're the underdogs, that everyone has it out for us," Ricketts said. "If we do that, there's no telling what's going to happen."

The Cardinals have a tournament at Lakeridge over the weekend and come back with a matchup against Benson on Monday.

With plenty of volleyball over the next few days on the way, Jendsen knows her injury-riddled squad will be pushed to the limit.

But after a win like that over Cleveland, Jendsen wouldn't go to battle with anyone else.

"I'm so proud of every one of our girls, there's nothing like it on the court," Jendsen said. "Everyone is so uplifting and so positive, I'd put my life in each one of these girls' hands."

Austin White
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