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La Grande Observer 11/28/14

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11 YEARS LATER, SOUTHERN FALLS

STRONG BLOCK: Eastern Oregons Elaine McKinstry (left) and Erin Phelps block an attack from Southern Oregons Kelli Thoni in Fridays match. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).
STRONG BLOCK: Eastern Oregons Elaine McKinstry (left) and Erin Phelps block an attack from Southern Oregons Kelli Thoni in Fridays match. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Eastern Oregon had not beaten Southern Oregon in volleyball since 1990, so you can understand coach Sharon Campbells giddiness after Fridays Mountaineer victory.

Cautiously optimistic before the season, Campbell now has reason to think her team has shattered the glass ceiling that has kept it without a winning record for years.

Everybodys coming into their own and starting to understand the role of what its about to be a team, Campbell said after Easterns 30-27, 21-30, 18-30, 31-29, 17-15 win snapped a 22-match losing streak to the Raiders, one of the nations top NAIA teams in that span.

Past Mountaineer teams might have folded under the pressure of Fridays match. Eastern (3-2 overall, 1-0 Cascade Collegiate Conference) won the first game but made plenty of errors in losing the second and third games. Campbell took freshman Karessa Kroh out of the back row in the fourth game and inserted sophomore Katie Branch.

We took Karessa out of the back row just to calm her down a bit, Campbell said. Katie stepped it up. Its tough to sit out three games and then come in and perform.

Trailing 11-7 in the fourth game, the team rallied behind kills from Sara Kirby, Erin Phelps and Mariah Dodrill to tie game 15-15. Kroh contributed to the rally with two kills that gave Eastern an 18-15 lead.

The lead got to 26-21 before Southern (6-2, 1-1) came back and tied the game 29-29. Two blocks by Dodrill captured the game.

The fifth game, to 15 instead of 30, was a classic. Fourteen times the game was tied, and Southern served for the match before Kirby spiked a kill for another tie, 14-14. Mistakes by both teams sent the score to 15-15 before another Southern miscue gave Eastern a 16-15 edge. Dodrills block won the match and brought her teammates cheering onto the floor.

The new rally scoring rules mean every point counts.

Theyre learning more and more now the value of ball control, Campbell said. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes will end up winning.

Kroh and Phelps, both freshmen, played significant roles in their first home match.

Theyre not freshmen anymore. They dont have time to be freshmen, Campbell said.

The big challenge now is beating Oregon Tech this afternoon. The match starts at 1 p.m., and Campbell wants her troops to refocus on the Owls.

We did what we had to do tonight. Tomorrows another day.

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