Looking to build on the momentum of their first win, The Dalles Riverhawks volleyball squad came from behind to defeat the Redmond Panthers, 25-19, 17-21, 18-25, 25-16, 15-9, in a thrilling match March 30 at Kurtz Gym.
With both teams battling for fifth place in the conference, the match was a close one throughout. Early in the first set, neither team could build more than a two-point lead. Tied at 11, the Riverhawks went on an impressive 10-2 run that saw the front court solidify itself as a problem for the Panthers going forward.
Over the next two sets, the Panthers started figuring things out at the net and pushed the Riverhawks to start making some of the mental errors that had plagued them throughout the season.
“The girls were playing hard, but they started beating themselves,” said Riverhawks Coach Julie Summers.
The Panthers jumped out to early leads in the second and third sets but Riverhawks came storming back to make a game out of both.
“There is no quit in this team,” said Summers. “Even when we’re down in the set or the match they fight for every point.”
But the Panthers were ultimately too much, as they came up with crucial points whenever the Riverhawks threatened a comeback. Redmond Junior Jayden Gustaveson made her presence felt as she came up with massive blocks in the second and third sets that launched the Panthers into a 2-1 set lead heading into the fourth.
“During the break I went to the scorer’s table to give the girls a moment to themselves before the next set,” said Summers. “Whatever was said worked because they came out firing after that.”
The Riverhawks cruised to a 7-0 lead to start the fourth and looked determined to make the match go the distance. Senior Charlie May led the Riverhawks in one of their most complete sets of the season. With a stellar all-around performance, May and her front-court mates, formed a brick wall at the net and stymied the Panthers potent offense and cruised to a 25-16 win, setting up the Riverhawks’ first five-setter of the season.
“With such a young team, Charlie (May) and her fellow seniors have taken it upon themselves to lead by example for the underclassmen,” said Summers.
The Riverhawks again got off to a quick start forcing a Panther timeout at 6-3 in the fifth. Once again, the Panther blockers proved difficult, as they kept their team in the match with some key points. But as the home crowd came to life, the Riverhawks fed off the energy and did enough to solidify an all-important win to start the final week of the season.
“This game was important in terms of seeding,” said Summers. “I’m extremely proud of the way they finished the job tonight.”
The win moved the Riverhawks into fifth place in the Intermountain Conference. The league tournament will begin next week. The Dalles lost to Pendleton, 25-17, 25-23, 25-15, March 31 to remain in fifth place with one regular-season match to play.