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Hawks unable to complete comeback at home against Chargers

A step too late, a rally too short

OREGON – Emphatic kills from powerful swings may be attention-grabbers on the volleyball court, but a well-placed tip kill scores just the same.

Orion used a combination of both to end one of the best seasons in Oregon school history Monday night at the Blackhawk Center, as the Chargers dropped the Hawks 25-21, 25-23 in a 2A Oregon Sectional semifinal.

“We knew that they did that and we practiced for it, and we weren’t ready for it,” Oregon coach Faith McNamee said. “There were a lot of things we could have done different to change the outcome.”

“We actually do a ton of tip scrimmages where that’s all we can do,” Orion sophomore Sarah Jacobsen said. “That way we can focus on finding all the different holes in a defense.”

Jacobsen’s final stat line of 12 kills, 10 digs, an ace, an assist and a block looked similar to a typical match by Oregon’s Gylian Finch. The Hawks kept feeding their senior star, but came up just short in both sets.

Oregon (32-5-1) trailed 18-10 in the second set, but instead of folding with the season on the line, began to fight its way back. Finch recorded four kills in a stretch that saw the Chargers’ lead shrink to just 23-20.

“What I was doing already was working, so I kept doing that,” Finch said. “There wasn’t much pressure there. None of us were trying to make a mistake, just trying our best.”

A block by Bailey Nelson preceded another kill by Finch to cut the Oregon deficit to one down 23-22, but a kill by Cassidy Schultz put Orion just a point away from sealing the match.

McKenna Sadler saved the Hawks’ season with a diving one-handed swing on Oregon’s third hit that snuck over the net and just inside the line on the Chargers’ side. However, Schultz ended the match fittingly with a tip kill a point later.

“We had an exciting comeback, but it was just too late,” McNamee said. “I never thought coming into this game we were going to lose. I thought we had prepared and had the heart, and certainly the talent. This was the most talented team I’ve ever coached.”

Orion (32-5) used a 5-0 run to take an early 6-2 advantage in the first set. Back-to-back kills by Finch cut the Hawks’ deficit to 11-9, and a pair of Charger hitting errors tied the set at 12. 

Oregon tied the match three different times in the opening set, but never captured the lead. The Chargers won a long rally capped by an Abby VanDuyne kill to make it 20-18 and Jacobsen hammered a kill to force a timeout by the Hawks. An attempted tip kill by Oregon went a foot long to give Orion the first-set victory.

Schultz finished with 13 digs and five kills for the Chargers. VanDuyne dished out 12 assists and had three digs, while libero Lauren Matson added seven digs and an assist. Faith Catour stuffed the stat sheet with six assists, four digs, two aces and a kill. Lily Parsons pitched in four kills.

Orion will take on Galena Wednesday night for the sectional crown. The Pirates handled the Chargers’ TRAC West rivals from Riverdale in the other semifinal by scores of 25-8 and 25-20.

Finch finishes her Oregon career with 1,110 kills after tacking on 18 more against Orion. She also added 15 digs, two assists and a block. Fellow senior Aleah Wight capped her career with a strong performance of 15 digs.

Jasmine Herbst passed out 22 assists and had three digs, a block and a kill. Nelson added six digs, four kills, an assist and a block, while Sadler recorded nine digs, two kills, an ace and a block.

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