ABERDEEN — Jackie Steenerson starred with seven digs, 11 aces and six kills in Naselle’s 25-17, 25-7, 25-23 win at Wishkah Tuesday. She served nine aces in 11 points to close out the Comets’ second-set victory, and pounced on a behind-the-back feed from Echo Cenci for the match-clinching kill.

Emma Colombo added nine aces for the Comets, who had 27 as a team as the Loggers struggled to handle their velocity.

Steenerson, making her season debut, got going on defense early.

“I started in the back row, which was new for me, but it was good to get some digs and ease my way in before I had to hit,” she said.

Steenerson served the final 12 points of the second set. Three times she nailed the sideline as the Loggers let the ball go, and the rest of her serves they had a tough time passing. The final serve of the set zipped off the fists of a back-row player.

“I just told myself ‘finish out the game,’” she said. “You just have to keep hitting it hard, hitting holes.”

Steenerson started the third set with a tough dig, after which Wishkah hit it into the net, giving the serve back to the Comets. Colombo had another sideline ace and served the Comets to a 9-0 lead, giving them 21 consecutive points.

Down 12-2, Wishkah rallied with five straight points as the Comets had trouble making connections. Kelcey Bernhardy sent a cross-court shot around a block and zipping to the right of Brynn Tarabochia’s dive for another Logger point, followed by two straight aces that cut it to 15-14. Bella Colombo answered with a short setter dump that the Loggers dug right into the net, breaking their momentum, but the set continued going back and forth. With Naselle up 24-23, Cenci set up Steenerson, leading her toward the net for a match-clinching slam.

With the Comets scoring on so many aces, their kill totals were low. Steenerson (six kills, three errors) and Hollie Haataia (six kills, one error) tied for the team lead. Bella Colombo was opportunistic with two kills on three attempts.

Naselle takes down champion Ocosta in five sets

NASELLE — Hollie Haataia’s desperate third-contact save of a ball several feet out of bounds turned into the winning point on the sixth match point of the fifth set in a heart-stopping Naselle win over the Ocosta Wildcats Wednesday, Sept. 25. The Comets prevailed 25-20, 20-25, 20-25, 25-11, 20-18 over the defending Pacific League champion Wildcats.

Ocosta was the first to get to match point with a 14-12 lead. (Fifth sets go only to 15, except that a team must win by two.) But the Wildcats served long, and the Comets stayed alive. Then Emma Colombo served a tough shot to the Wildcats, and Haataia’s two blocks kept Ocosta on the defensive on the point, which Naselle quickly won to tie it at 14. The Wildcats returned another tough serve from Colombo into the net. The Cats hit one that was headed out of bounds long, and the Comets could have won the match right there. But Brynn Tarabochia went for it and it went off her fist, tying it at 15 and setting up the marathon battle.

Haataia put Naselle back in control with a high-velocity kill on serve return, but Bella Colombo served into the net to tie it back up. Haataia tapped a shot to a vulnerable spot in the back corner to send Ocosta reeling, leading to an error, putting the Comets ahead yet again. The Cats came up with kills on the next two points to take an 18-17 lead.

Jackie Steenerson answered with her seventeenth and eighteenth kills of the match. On third contact on serve return, she absolutely crushed a shot off the fists of a back-row player to tie it. Next point, she placed a shot that forced a quick decision by the Ocosta defense as it was scrambling into position. The Cats had two players covering the right side of the court, both playing back, but one a bit in and to the right of the other. The shot created a near collision as the shallow defender went back on the ball, reached in front of her teammate and deflected the ball out of bounds.

At 19-18 Comets, the Wildcats returned serve to the gap in the middle of the court but Brynn Tarabochia made a diving stop. Jackie Steenerson hit the ball into the air but wide. Haataia, playing center-back-court, ranged way to her right to chase it out of bounds. Her shot had some zip, and came at a tough angle for the defense to judge. Two players dove; one bumped it off the ground, but nobody could get off a second contact, and the match went to Naselle.

The Comets had fallen behind two sets to one after a third-set comeback from down 12-2 fell short; but they were at the very top of their game in the must-win fourth. Though Ocosta played reasonably well in the set, the Comets were a level or two ahead. The Comets created initial advantages with their serves, while holding serve most of the set. The Comets frequently had fast, but returnable, hits that the Cats didn’t quite handle. Meanwhile, Naselle was making extraordinary defensive plays. Steenerson turned around a couple of very hard hits to set up a Haataia spike, then made a diving play to save another point. Haataia made a sensational dive to her right for a seemingly impossible dig, leading to a point that put Naselle up 22-10.

Echo Cenci followed with a highlight-reel cross-court connection with Kaylin Shrives. Anticipating the play, Shrives backed way off from the net and called for the ball as Cenci was going to get it; Cenci obliged with an over-the-shoulder pass that led Shrives in a running, leaping smash for the kill. Steenerson capped the 25-11 fourth-set win by tapping a shot into vacant space for the kill.

Naselle continued out-playing the Wildcats to start the fifth, jumping out to a 7-3 lead with three aces and a couple of extremely hard Kylee Tarabochia kills. Ocosta rallied for seven straight points. An ace that glanced off the net gave the Cats a 14-12 lead heading into the final stretch.

Steenerson finished the game with 18 kills, Haataia had 11 and Shrives added 10. Kylee Tarabochia had nine digs and eight kills. Brynn Tarabochia had 21 digs.

The Comets improved to 4-2, while Ocosta fell to 4-1. Naselle hosts Three Rivers Christian Oct. 8.

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

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