Friday, June 23, 2017 This Week's Paper

Rams show grit against North Thurston

// Wilson battles back, falls in five sets

The first time Wilson met North Thurston on the volleyball court this season, they lost in three sets. It looked as if the same would happen on their home court on Oct. 8, but the Rams refused to give in. Despite battling back from a two-set deficit to tie it, Wilson ultimately fell 15-8 in the final set, but had proven that they can compete with one of the top teams in their league.

“It was huge for us to be able to come back from down 0-2,” said Wilson head coach Jenna Elliott Chantler. “Volleyball is a game of momentum. Gaining the momentum and keeping with it is huge in this sport. For this team (the key) is definitely confidence. We haven’t really had that. Our record is really good, but we haven’t had the confidence to beat teams like this yet.”

Wilson dropped the first two sets 25-21, as Sojournah Channel, Alexis Slater and Tia Briggs battled up front to keep the Rams in the game. But North Thurston pulled away in each set thanks to the play of Brittany Rutherford up front, who seemed to steal back the momentum every time Wilson took it.

Facing a 20-16 deficit in the third set, the Rams battled back to tie it 22-22 on a block by Briggs, who tied it again two points later with a tip over. Rutherford then hit a spike into the net to give the Rams a 25-23 win in the set, and with it a bit of confidence. Wilson charged out to a 14-5 lead in the fourth set – with Briggs coming up with a couple of early kills and Channel dominating late – on the way to a dominant 25-16 win, leading to the final period. Despite running out of gas in the fifth set, the Rams had shown they are continuing to improve. Channel led the way for Wilson with 15 kills and 17 digs, while Briggs had seven kills and six blocks and Slater had nine kills and three blocks.

“They never backed down, they were always up there swinging big, and that’s what we need,” Chantler said. “They really carried us tonight.”

Libero Katie Ecklund finished with a team-high 17 digs for Wilson, continuing to show her versatility and defensive prowess.

“She really improved a lot defensively against these big hitters,” said Chantler. “She was a lot quicker tonight, which is what we’ve been asking her to do.”

Despite the loss, Chantler noted that the performance should prove beneficial to the Rams as they prepare for the postseason. “I’ve been waiting for a turn like today,” Chantler said. “We’ve just needed the turn to see what we’re capable of. Now that we know, I think it’s going to be a much different end of the season for us.”