SOUTH BEND — In a match that went down to the wire in three of four sets, Ilwaco came away with a 26-24, 24-26, 25-17, 25-23 win over South Bend Thursday, Oct. 17. Ilwaco improved to 4-1 in the Pacific League with the win, and 7-3 overall, while South Bend fell to 1-4 and 1-9.

“It’s just a different team dynamic this year,” Sophia Marsh said of Ilwaco’s strongest start in years. “We have a different goal every year, and this year it was to be on the floor at State.”

“It has a lot to do with team chemistry,” Jaymie Patana said. She said that being in the second year of coach Michaela Eastham’s tenure has given the team time to get accustomed to her system; previously, the Ilwaco volleyball coaching position was a revolving door.

In fact, the program’s rise has reached the point where the Lady Fishermen can win without feeling like they have played a good game.

“We could have played better,” Marsh said. “Our energy level wasn’t high.”

The Indians led throughout most of the first set, but a pair of late plays by Kylie Gray kept Ilwaco alive. With Ilwaco down 23-20, Gray got to a pass at the net and redirected away from defenders for a sneaky second-contact kill. At 24-21, Gray blocked a spike attempt for another kill. Three South Bend hitting errors gave Ilwaco game point at 25-24. Tiana Ramsey got a game-clinching kill, forcing a dive by the digger that came a beat too late.

In the second set, Sophia Marsh’s kill to the back line started a 7-0 run that gave Ilwaco a 21-17 lead. Some missed passes set Ilwaco back as South Bend took a 24-23 lead. Gray kept Ilwaco alive again, digging a Reese Williams block right in the front of the net; Katie Glasson got a cross-court kill on the play to tie it at 24. South Bend answered with a kill to get to game point. Glasson tried to tie it with a shot to the back line, but her hit was out by perhaps an inch, giving the set to South Bend to tie it at one.

“I feel like the Ocosta loss was still in our heads,” Jaymie Patana said. “Fortunately, we didn’t get down on each other.”

Marsh broke the third set open with serving. After Glasson’s kill to the middle got her the serve with a 6-5 lead, Marsh served eight straight points, including five aces. Marsh used every inch of court available to her. She got an ace with a serve that nicked off the top of the net, causing a misread by the defense, then followed with one right on the back line. Ilwaco took a 14-5 lead and held on for the 25-17 win, the most lopsided of the match.

South Bend jumped on top 4-1 in the fourth. Marsh tied it at six with a kill to the back corner, then ended a long rally with a cross-court shot that forced a South Bend miss, putting Ilwaco ahead. Kylie Gray made several big plays at the net as Ilwaco extended the lead to 12-8. After South Bend tied it at 13, Marsh dove way to her right to stop a shot. Ilwaco won the point, getting the serve back to Marsh, who served six straight points, including three more aces for a 20-13 lead.

South Bend tied it at 22 but Abby Knopski swatted a shot sideways all the way to the sideline for a kill. At 23-23, Jaymie Patana placed a soft shot to the corner behind the defense for a kill. South Bend was short on the subsequent serve return to end the match.

Ocosta 3, Ilwaco 0

ILWACO — Ocosta gave Ilwaco its first league loss, beating the Lady Fishermen 25-14, 25-20, 25-21 Tuesday, Oct. 15. The Wildcats, Ilwaco’s toughest league opponent to this point, won the opening set handily and outlasted the home team after tough battles the next two sets. Ocosta was 8-2 overall and 4-1 in league play by week’s end.

Ilwaco had been off to its first 3-0 start in 37 years and dropped to 6-3 overall with the loss.

Ocosta burst out of the gate with leads of 17-4 and 20-6 to easily take the opening set. The Cats stayed on offense in the second set, taking an 8-3 lead with some overpowering kills. With Ilwaco still trailing 14-9, Alyssa Marsh sparked a 10-2 run with a hard kill, followed by a win at the net by Sophia Marsh. Kylie Gray kept things going with a kill from mid-court that dropped in-bounds in the corner, tying it at 15. After a few misses by Ocosta, Ilwaco suddenly had a 19-16 lead. But the Fishermen started missing a few shots of their own, and Ocosta came back to win the set.

Alyssa Marsh gave Ilwaco an 8-7 lead in the third with a kill through a double-block. Sophia Marsh put the Lady Fishermen back on top at 11-10 with an overpowering cross-court kill. Abby Knopski followed with a pair of aces. Ocosta’s Layne Martin then hammered a hit through two blockers, but Kylie Gray made the diving stop, bumping it over to a mid-court opening for a 14-10 lead. A spike by Gray stretched the lead. Setter Jaymie Patana then caught the Cats napping with a quick shot to a mid-court opening, making it 17-10.

Ocosta responded right away with a stretch of efficient play, winning several rallies on Ilwaco errors as they went on a 14-2 run to go up 23-19. Emily Snider tapped a shot over the net for a kill to clinch the win.

Ilwaco will visit Pe Ell Thursday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. and hosts first-place Willapa Valley Oct. 28.

Aaron Mead is a sports writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact him at 360-642-8181 or aaroncmead@gmail.com.

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