With the Baker gym draped in pink for “Pink Night,” a fundraiser for the Billie Ruth Bootsma Foundation, and a raucous crowd in the stands, the Baker volleyball team ran its winning streak to 11 matches with a hard-fought four-set win over La Grande Thursday evening, Oct. 7.
The Bulldogs, ranked fourth in the Class 4A ranks, lost their first set in almost a month, as the Tigers rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win the third set, 27-25.
Baker then prevailed 25-20 in the fourth set to close out the Tigers (4-4).
For senior night, along with statistician Sydnee Hallet, Lacy Churchfield was honored prior to the opening serve.
During her four years in the program, Churchfield said she doesn’t remember defeating the Tigers, so Thursday’s match, besides being her last league match on the home court, had added incentive.
“We were excited, but definitely nervous, more so me,” Churchfield said. “We were definitely excited to play our rivals ... to have some competition.”
Baker won the first two sets, but neither was a runaway, with scores of 25-23 and 25-20.
Baker coach Ali Abrego said Baker relied on good communication and ball placement to take the 2-0 lead.
“That’s exactly what we want, we want to start strong and finish strong, and the thing about us is we have to figure out a way to channel that throughout every set and we knew that this was going to be a battle so maintaining our energy was going to be a struggle,” Abrego said.
Baker also led for much of the third set, by as many five points before the Tigers rallied late.
Baker hadn’t lost a set since the championship match against Grant Union at the Baker tournament on Sept. 10.
“Going up against La Grande it’s more of a mental thing and that showed in set three when we lost, we were not mentally sound and we did not trust each other enough to be definitive in our decisions,” Abrego said.
Going into the fourth set, Abrego pushed for her team to focus on the task at hand, and that resonated with Churchfield and her teammates.
“She (Abrego) was just saying to us to calm down, be ourselves, play our game and not play down to their level,” Churchfield said. “Go in there with confidence and don’t go in there complacent.”
With the win over La Grande, which was 2-0 in the Greater Oregon League play, Baker, with a 4-0 league record, is in sole possession of first place.
But Abrego is already thinking about the next tasks for her team.
“It’s a lot to think about tonight, a win is great but we got to figure out how to piece it together all the time, making sure we take not the ending of the season but the beginning of a postseason,” Abrego said.
Churchfield is excited to keep playing hard with her teammates, pushing forward in the remainder of the season.
She hopes to return to the Baker gym for a playoff match.
“I don’t think this will be my last (match on my home court), if we win league we get home court and this wasn’t my last game, I still get to go on from there,” Churchfield said.
The Bulldogs are set to compete today at the Powder Valley tournament.