PHIL HAWKINS - North Marion head coach Alexa Powell thinks Huskies' sophomore Emily Scanlan, right, has incredible potential after moving from middle blocker to outside hitter this year.
After opening the season with their best start in more than a decade, the North Marion volleyball team experienced its first real hiccup of the season, losing a pair of conference games last week to snap a six-game winning streak.
The Huskies (8-5, 2-2 Oregon West) were flying high after opening their league schedule with a pair of road victories earlier in the month, but the team was unable to continue its high level of play after losing a 3-0 contest (25-21, 25-21, 25-18) to the visiting Philomath Warriors (5-6, 3-1 OWC) on Sept. 20.
On Thursday, North Marion attempted to right the ship in Stayton (7-7, 2-2 OWC), whom the Huskies had beaten earlier in the season at the Cascade Tournament, but came out flat in the opening set, losing 25-10.
“When we played Stayton, I think some of the girls were either over confident or didn’t expect Stayton to come out as hard as they did,” head coach Alexa Powell said.
The Huskies appeared to recover in the second set, taking an 11-6 lead, but the Eagles responded with a strong comeback, scoring 11 straight points to go up 17-11.
But the Huskies refused to back down, going on an 8-2 run to tie the set at 19-19. The two teams traded points with Stayton taking a 24-23 lead, but the Huskies ended the set emphatically with three straight points to tie the match at 1-1.
The third set proved just as close as the second, but Stayton recovered from a slow start to turn a 7-3 deficit into a 16-12 advantage and held on for a 25-22 win to take a 2-1 lead.
With their backs against the wall, North Marion came out flat again in the fourth set, giving up seven straight points to fall behind 9-1. Stayton continued to press, trading points with the Huskies to take a 20-10 advantage before North Marion mounted its final comeback, going on a 10-2 run to get within 22-20.
But the run ended there, with Stayton scoring three of the next four points to win 25-21 and take the game 3-1 (25-10, 24-26, 25-22, 25-21).
Both the Stayton and Philomath losses came against teams that North Marion was favored against.
“Last week I think we really struggled with staying confident while making plays to eliminate little errors and playing at a consistent level,” Powell said. “We play our best volleyball against really competitive teams, and fall victim to playing down against less competitive teams.”
Despite the losses, North Marion did not come away empty handed. Powell felt that sophomore Emily Scanlan competed at a high level of play, logging 10-plus kills in a single set against Stayton. Powell moved Scanlan from middle blocker to outside hitter at the beginning of the season and saw how powerful she can be at that position against Stayton.
“She’ll be a cannon on the outside once she starts really going after it and feels confident in that spot…because I know how lethal she can potentially be,” Powell said.
North Marion returns home this week to host a pair of league games and finishes the week with its annual home tournament.
The Huskies were scheduled to host No. 7 Cascade (9-2, 4-0 OWC) on Tuesday before taking on Newport (1-8, 1-3 OWC) on Thursday.
North Marion then hosts its annual North Marion Fall Classic tournament on Saturday, opening the event in the morning against the No. 4 Tillamook Cheesemakers (9-2, 4-0 Cowapa League).
From there, the Huskies move on to the second half of their league schedule with an eye on getting payback against the Eagles and Warriors.
“I think going in to the second half of league play, the girls understand they have every opportunity to play their best volleyball and beat Stayton and Philomath the second time around,” Powell said. “I know the girls really want to see post season play, and I obviously do as well, so we are going to have to go and fight for it.”