In a match that played more like a playoff game and less like an early season nonleague matchup, the Montesano Bulldogs lost a thrilling back-and-forth contest to the King’s Way Christian Knights 3-1 (24-26, 25-23, 25-10, 25-20) on Monday at Montesano High School.
Coming off a successful trip at the SunDome Tournament over the weekend where they went 5-0-1, the Bulldogs opened Monday’s match in thrilling fashion. Highlighted by several key kills from outside hitter Emma Jensen, Montesano (2-1 overall) led a back-and-forth first set 23-18 before the Knights (3-0) climbed back to within a point at 24-23. KWC tied the first set at 24-all, but Monte got a clutch kill down the middle from 6-foot-0 freshman McKynnlie Dalan followed the Knights putting the ball into the net to take the first set.
In the second game, the two teams tied six times through the first 16 points of the game before Monte pulled ahead 15-9 on a Knights service error. But KWC battled back, to tie the game at 16—16 and took a one-point lead on a block by middle blocker Bridget Young.
The two squads jostled back-and-forth for the next several points before Monte, nursing a 19-17 lead, saw its chances of a two-set lead dwindle as the Knights went on a five-point streak to take a 23-19 lead.
But Monte rallied, getting another kill from Dalan followed by a Knights error to cut the KWC lead to 23-22.
Facing set point, Jensen slammed home a cross-court kill to extend the set, but a Young putback on the following point tied the match at one set apiece.
“We were so aggressive,” Montesano head coach Pat Pace said of the first two sets. “Our big girls were penetrating the net and put some good blocks down and I think we kind of took King’s Way’s guard down that we could actually play the game.”
As good as Monte looked in the first two sets, the Bulldogs were anything but in the third. Prone to mistakes and miscommunication, that was non-existent earlier in the match, Montesano quickly fell behind 10-1 in the pivotal third game and never really recovered in a 25-10 loss.
“I think we had girls opening up and saying, ‘Yours’ instead of ‘Mine’ and not wanting to step up and take charge and (possibly) make a mistake,” Pace said, adding that miscommunication led to mistakes in the third set. “I think there was a little fear there, being “I don’t want to be the one that shanks this ball,” but those are the things that are going to make us better because the girls are going to watch the video and say ‘Oh yeah, that ball is mine,’ and fix it.”
The Bulldogs regained form in the fourth set, keeping close to KWC before tying the game and taking the lead at 14-13 on kills by Jessica Stanfield and Dalan, respectively. But with the score tied at 16-16, KWC outscored Monte 5-2 and went on to win the game 25-20 and the match, 3-1.
“Montesano is extremely tough and it was a really tough fight for us,” Knights head coach Shane Agan said, adding his team ran a different formation after some of his players were ineligible for various reasons. “We just started changing up the tempo of the game, noticing (Monte’s) defense was pushing us deep and we had to take it short. … It’s a great win for us, especially against Montesano because we have a history against Montesano. … (Montesano) is an extremely tough team with some great coaching out here.”
Pace felt his team in in a good position after seeing how competitive it was against KWC, which finished third in the district and competed at the state tournament last season.
“Compared to the recent past, I think we’re doing pretty well right now,” he said. “The girls are moving, they’re excited, they’re attacking the ball. … I thought it was a great atmosphere tonight for us and I thought that was kind of like a playoff game. We just have to learn how to come out on top.”
Montesano traveled Tuesday to face Rochester in the second game of a back-t0-back. That game occurred too late to make this edition.
The Bulldogs host Morton-White Pass at 7 p.m. on Monday.
Montesano started out a perfect 2-0 on the young season with a straight-set home victory over Aberdeen on Wednesday before falling to King’s Way Christian three 3-1 on Monday.
Montesano swept Wednesday’s match by scores of 25-13, 25-15 and 25-17 for its second victory of the season and was led by Emma Jensen, who had game-high nine kills against the Bobcats (0-2).
Montesano didn’t have much trouble in the first set and won the last five points of the game to go up 1-0 in the match.
Aberdeen offered a little more resistance in the second and third sets, however, as the Bobcats briefly held leads in both those games. Aberdeen was up 9-8 in the second set and also had a slim 11-10 lead in the third.
Montesano head coach Pat Pace said his players suffered from lapses in concentration later in the match and had to regain focus to close out the contest.
“We made some mistakes and we got caught not talking, not moving our feet and Aberdeen took advantage of that,” he said. “(My players) decided they needed to play at their level and we were able to pull things out.”
When Aberdeen was attempting to mount its comeback, the Bobcats’ Chantheada No was often in the middle of the scoring effort. The outside hitter led her team with five kills and committed just one hitting error.
Aberdeen’s Merryn Bruner also preformed well as a server with 10 aces.
Aberdeen head coach Doug Basler was impressed with the heart all his players showed when they found themselves down late in the match.
“I was pleased with the fight that we had. The first game was tough and the girls didn’t give up. They came back in games two and three,” he said. “They fought, which is what we’re going to have to do. We’re going to have to not quit and keep working hard, so I’m proud of the girls for doing that.”
The Bobcats comeback attempt fell short in part due to miscues on their side of the net. Aberdeen had 11 hitting errors in the match and at times struggled to cover parts of the court, allowing Montesano to score and pull ahead.
Basler said his team can’t afford to allow the opposition a chance for easy points.
“There were lots of simple mistakes where we were just giving away points. We’re so young and inexperienced that we can’t give away free points. We can’t bounce back from that,” he said.
Montesano’s offensive attack came from a few different players as five different Bulldogs registered at least four kills.
Pace said his back row of McKenna Wecker, Mylaina Parker and Carley Bradbury did a great job of setting up the setters.
“Those back row players are doing a great job adjusting on who is attacking us based on the power on the other side of the net,” he said. “They’re staying low and they’re digging the ball up for our setters. I think they’re doing well.”
Aberdeen’s next matchup was a home game Wednesday against Shelton. That match ended too late for this edition.