Lions volleyball unable to overcome firepower from NWOC champion Wilsonville

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Senior setter Marissa Eib was a crucial part of the strong St. Helens outings in the first two sets in an Oct. 18 match against Wilsonville.WILSONVILLE — Last year, the Wilsonville volleyball team showed promise. The Class 5A team dropped a handful of games in tournament play and only two games in its league season to La Salle Prep and now-6A Sandy.

In the 2018 regular season the Wildcats were sterling, capping a 14-0 league run with a 3-0 shutout of the visiting St. Helens Lions on Oct. 18, with scores of 25-19, 25-17, and 25-14.

Wilsonville, now the Northwest Oregon Conference champion for the first time since 2007, ended its regular season with an 18-2 overall.

St. Helens finished fourth in the league with an 8-6 record and 9-9 overall mark.

"The girls are playing better every time," St. Helens coach Tom Ray said after the Wilsonville match. "I had a middle that got injured tonight — knee. But we competed with Wilsonville, and they're tough. They deserve to be number one."

The first set was back and forth from the start. St. Helens scored the first point, but Wilsonville answered strongly. The Wildcats went on a 7-1 run with several kills from junior outside hitter Lindsey Hartford contributing to the scoring. The Lions rallied, taking advantage of Wilsonville hitting the ball out of bounds and a big block from freshman Karlee Webster and junior Brynn Austin.

It took awhile for Wilsonville to pull away. Sophomore Clarissa Klein had several kills down the stretch or the opening set.

In the second set, Wilsonville got off on the right foot with two straight points. Once again, St. Helens came back and pushed the home team early. Senior Marissa Eib and sophomore Brea Paulson helped run the offense cohesively, setting up kills for Austin, Webster and senior Lydia Rose.

"We just knew what to expect, so we came out strong and tried to do our best," Eib said.

The game was even at 14-14, but once again Wilsonville pulled ahead. Hartford and freshman Ashli Edmiston pulled out some powerful kills that St. Helens could not dig. The final point came from a Meredith Thomas ace.

The third set was much more one-sided, with Wilsonville jumping out to a 12-3 lead. Though St. Helens would battle back, it would never get closer than five points.

St. Helens faced off in an Oct. 23 nonleague match against The Dalles and lost 3-1, with scores of 25-21, 20-25, 22-25, 22-25.

The Lions, ranked 16th by the Oregon School Activities Association, will open the state playoffs on the road against No. 1 Corvallis (21-2) in the first round at 6 p.m. Saturday.

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