ILWACO — Hard hitting by Kylie Gray, an energetic performance by setter Jaymie Patana, and ace serving by Sophia Marsh led Ilwaco to a 25-14, 16-25, 25-9, 25-20 season-opening victory over Naselle Tuesday, Sept. 10.

Gray, a junior who made varsity for the first time, showed power and range. She regularly bent her hits around the left pole to keep them in bounds, while still hitting the ball hard. Gray finished with eight kills, only three errors and a strong .333 hitting percentage despite a high degree of difficulty on many of her plays.

Marsh served seven aces in only nine attempts. With the Comets playing tentatively, Marsh showed a knack for taking advantage, putting together streaks of aces to keep them from finding their footing. She also contributed a team-high .455 hitting percentage.

Patana, returning to the setter position she played two years ago, showed her knack for creative plays in chaotic situations. The wilder the play, the more she thrived and found a way to turn it to Ilwaco’s advantage. On one play, she ran down a lob at the end line, getting to it over her shoulder, then turned around and made a diving stop on the next ball over. She got off accurate passes on both digs, and Ilwaco won the point. Patana finished with a team-high seven digs along with 26 assists.

Ilwaco jumped out to a big first-set lead as Naselle had a series of miscues to start the year. The Comets, who already faced a rebuilding project, were reeling after losing setter Peyton Dalton, a centerpiece of that rebuild, for four to six weeks to injury just days before the season’s start. The Comets played a bit better late in the first set and won the second.

But Ilwaco dominated the third and won the fourth.

“We showed confidence in each other,” Marsh said. “We didn’t get down on ourselves when things started to go badly. We turned things right back around.”

Naselle’s 5’8” freshman, Kaylin Shrives, showed signs of becoming a go-to hitter, showing real power and coming up with a team-high six kills. Bella Colombo, replacing Dalton at setter, came up with 18 assists.

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

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