By COREY KIRK
For the second match in a row, the Baker volleyball team went to a deciding fifth set, and for the second time the Bulldogs came away with the win, rallying past Burns in a thriller Tuesday evening, Sept. 7 in the Baker gym.
Baker, which lost two of the first three sets, handed the Hilanders just their second loss of the season. Burns is 6-2 overall.
Baker, which followed its five-set win at Union on Sept. 2, improved to 3-1.
Baker coach Ali Abrego said the Bulldogs came together as a team in their first match following the Labor Day weekend.
“Really focused on defense, serve receive in particular, and serving,” Abrego said. “Just like getting into a groove and working as a cohesive unit.”
Baker captain Lacy Churchfield, the team’s only senior, said she felt Baker was prepared for Burns, which is a top team in the Class 3A ranks, after a tough practice on Monday.
Churchfield said Tuesday’s match was also important as its the first in a hectic week for the Bulldogs, who play on five straight days.
“If we didn’t show up today, it was going to be a very long week,” Churchfield said.
The Bulldogs started strong against the Hilanders, winning the first set 25-21.
But Burns bounced back immediately, winning sets two and three in decisive fashion, 25-13 and 25-10.
Abrego was frustrated with Baker’s lack of consistency, which contributed to the team’s struggles in the middle of the match.
In particular, she said the Bulldogs struggled to recognize when Burns players went for a tip rather than a spike.
“Obviously it’s hard when you are in the game, but if you see somebody’s hand go up, they are going to tip but not swing, that’s an adjustment that they need to make quicker,” Abrego said. “They had a few rotations that sucked us out of a few points. It happens, you can’t be perfect all of the time, but coming out of that big of a loss and coming back to winning the match, that’s awesome.”
With their backs to the wall, the Bulldogs held off the Hilanders 25-22 in the fourth set to force a decisive fifth set.
Churchfield said she was confident as that set started.
“I didn’t have the mindset that we were going to lose, I kept it positive, and that’s what we needed as a team,” she said. “My team kept it positive on the fourth set, into the fifth set and that’s really, really important. We gave it our all.”
In the deciding set, the teams traded the lead several times.
But Baker eventually forged a lead and held on, 15-13.
With consecutive wins in long, competitive matches, Abrego said she’s excited for the league season to start, with a Sept. 14 match at Ontario.
“I hope they can figure out a way to remember what it feels like to win big games like this, because each set to 25 is an opportunity to get a big win for us,” Abrego said. “We come off this big win for us against Burns, we got to show up tomorrow, we have another one,” Abrego said. “We just have to remember muscle memory, train your body and train your mind.”
Baker, in the midst of a busy series of home matches, played Weiser, Idaho, on Wednesday, Pendleton on Thursday, a tournament on Friday and then on Saturday, a chance to avenge an earlier loss to McCall-Donnelly.
Though the schedule is packed this week, Churchfield knows that the team will be ready.
“We have that win and now we have that long week ahead of us, we just have to keep that in the back of our minds, tomorrow is a new game,” Churchfield said.