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VOLLEYBALL: Sandy loses its grip on a big lead in the middle set, falls to Clackamas

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Sandys Josie Jansen sends a kill past the Clackamas block.

Mount Hood Conference

Team Score

Sandy's volleyball team picked the wrong time to travel to Clackamas, taking on an unbeaten Cavaliers squad that had just returned to full strength.

Clackamas' big hitter Isabelle Combs, the district triple jump champion during track season, was limited in what she could do following off-season ankle surgery, but she got the green light before Thursday's match to get back to doing one of the things she does best — hitting.

She didn't hold back, leading the Cavaliers to a 25-20, 25-18, 25-22 home win.

Combs had five of her team-high nine kills in the third set and Kalista Luckovich added a kill on match point as the Cavaliers won their fourth in a row and kept pace with Central Catholic atop the league standings.

"That was so exciting," Combs said. "I was really nervous, because I honestly didn't know what way it was going to go.

"There was no point in the match where I felt on the court that we were stressed out. Once we got going, we felt confident that we could win."

Sandy had its moments, highlighted by a 7-0 run at the start of the second set, but the Pioneers struggled to string enough of them together to put sufficient heat on Clackamas.

"I think that we could have done better, but we tried as hard as we could have tonight," Sandy middle blocker Josie Jansen said. "There are some things we still need to work on, but once we get those together, we're going to come back and be fine."

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Sandys Sydney Brewster bumps a ball into the front row during the Pioneers loss at Clackamas last week.

Sandy opened the second set on a 7-0 run that ended with Peyton Le Cornu driving the ball past a pair of Cavaliers, but the Pioneers couldn't sustain the early momentum.

Clackamas battled back to draw even at 16-16 and again at 18-18, and then closed the set on an eight-point surge with Gwynn serving the last seven points.

"That was pretty disappointing," said Jansen, the Pioneers' 6-foot-2 senior. "I think we just let our energy drop. Once we find the right connections and keep our energy up the whole game, this is going to be a totally different team."

In the third set, Sandy's Annika Traxler delivered a kill to give the Pioneers a 17-14 lead, but Clackamas answered with an 8-5 burst to knot the score at 22-22.

The final three points came on a Sandy hit that landed wide right, a Natalie Gwynn ace, and Lukovich's kill that was set up by a Gwynn dig.

"The third set, we all kept saying, 'Just keep going. First to five, first to 10, first to 15, first to 20 and 25, and keep pushing,'" Combs said. "It didn't matter if they got a big, crazy kill or they dumped on us. Just flush it and, 'Next ball.'"

For the Pioneers, the loss was tough to swallow and there were an awful lot of postgame tears shed by players who apparently thought the team had turned a corner following consecutive wins over Gresham and David Douglas.

"I hope the team that shows up is going to be those girls that left here crying, those girls that are showing that emotion," Sandy coach Lihua Perreira said. "That shows us that they've got the passion, they've got the fight in them somewhere."

If Perreira had it to do over again, she probably would like to take another stab at the second set.

"It's those moments when we have a 7-0 lead and we exhale and think, 'Oh, we're good,'" she said. "And then the other team gets a point and we're like, 'Oh, wait, we're not good.' Well, we can't expect that the game is going to be 25-0. We have to be ready for them to block us. We have to be ready for them to hit at the ball at us. We have to expect that those things are going to happen because that's volleyball."

In the first set, Sandy opened an 8-7 lead when Combs delivered her first kill of the match to get a side out and even the score.

The Pioneers regained a 14-10 advantage, but Sandy relinquished the serve on a hitting error, sparking a 12-3 Clackamas run that propelled the Cavaliers to a 22-17 lead. Combs then put the set away with a shot that deflected off a Sandy blocker before going out of bounds.

"After probably the first eight or 10 points, I felt fully confident that not only were we going to win the set, but we were going to win the match," Combs said. "I could just feel it between the girls. It felt like that feeling you get in your stomach where you're just happy and you know that it's going to work out for you."

This story is slated for our Sept. 25, print edition.

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