Sherwood rolls to NWOC victory over Rex Putnam

by: DAN BROOD - SMACK IT -- Sherwood senior Hannah Valesano goes up for a kill during Tuesday's match at Putnam.MILWAUKIE — Things have been different for the Sherwood High School volleyball team in the second half of the Northwest Oregon Conference season.

And that’s been a good thing for the Lady Bowmen.

It’s not that the Sherwood played poorly in the first half of the conference season, but the Lady Bowmen have been downright unstoppable in the second half of the NWOC campaign.

Rex Putnam certainly couldn’t slow them down.

Sherwood picked up its sixth straight win in the second half of its NWOC schedule by powering its way to a 25-10, 25-10, 23-25, 25-13 win over Rex Putnam in a conference match held Tuesday at Rex Putnam High School.

“It’s going pretty good,” Sherwood senior Hannah Valesano said after the victory. “At the beginning of the season, it was a little rough. We weren’t really playing as a team. But, now we’re starting to gel. And we’re peaking at the right time. And we’re having a lot of fun. This is one of my favorite teams.”

With the loss, Putnam fell to 3-10 in NWOC matches.

Sherwood improved to 9-4 in NWOC play with the victory, putting the Lady Bowmen alone in third place in the conference standings.

“Midway through the season, we were able to turn things around,” Sherwood coach Emily Gustafson said. “I think we grew a lot in the first half of the season, and now we’re a completely different team in the second half. We nailed down our priorities and believed in them.”

Sherwood got off to a flying start to Tuesday’s match at Putnam.

With senior Maggie Kiren serving, the Lady Bowmen scored four straight points to sprint to a 7-1 lead in the opening set of the match.

Sherwood kept rolling from there. Junior Maddisen McSmith served four straight points to push the Lady Bowmen lead to 16-5.

Valesano and junior Britnie Jacobsen each had kills off sets by junior Mallory Shields and Valesano had an ace serve to help Sherwood up the margin to 20-7.

Back-to-back kills by Lady Bowmen freshman Sarah Penner off sets by Shields gave Sherwood a 22-9 advantage. A block by Sherwood junior Taylor Hubbard closed out the 25-10 first-set win.

The Bowmen kept rolling in the second set of the DAN BROOD - UP HIGH -- Sherwood freshman Sarah Penner, with teammate Maddisen McSmith behind her, goes above the net in Tuesday's match.

With Valesano serving, Sherwood jumped out to an 8-0 lead, with Valesano having a pair of aces during the opening scroring spree.

Putnam scored a pair of points to make the score 9-2, but the Lady Bowmen took off again. With junior Megan Kittel serving, Sherwood scored five straight points — with junior Taylor Hubbard and Penner each having kills during the run — to make the score 14-2.

From there, Sherwood, getting a kill by Penner, a block by Jacobsen and an ace serve by junior Katie Munk, closed out the 25-10 second-set win.

The Lady Bowmen seemed to be on their way to a sweep, as they jumped out to a 19-13 lead in the third set, following three straight kills by Valesano, but Putnam was able to rally to get a 25-23 win.

Sherwood made sure no such comeback would happen in the fourth set.

Valesano led another big Lady Bowmen scoring run, as she served eight straight points — three coming on kills by Penner — to help Sherwood jump out to a 9-0 lead.

An ace serve by Penner gave the Lady Bowmen a 14-3 advantage. Sherwood kept rolling. A kill by Penner, a block by Hubbard and a tip by Shields made the score 22-9.

From there, the Lady Bowmen were able to close out the 25-13 fourth-set win to wrap up the match.

“We worked on our communication tonight,” Valesano said.

And things have been working well for the Lady Bowmen since they lost to Wilsonville and Liberty in the first half of conference play.

“The Wilsonville match was the turning point,” Valesano said. “After we lost to them, we turned around the season.”

Sherwood downed both Wilsonville and Liberty in the second half of conference play.

“That Wilsonville game was awesome,” Valesano said with a smile as she talked about the rematch with the Wildcats.

And things could get even better for the Lady Bowmen.

“We haven’t peaked yet,” Gustafson said. “We have a couple more weeks to get better.”

Sherwood will be back in action today (Thursday) when it plays first place St. Helens in a match starting at 6:45 p.m. at St. Helens. The Lady Bowmen fell to the Lions in the first half of conference play.

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