In front of a large crowd in the Baker gym on Homecoming weekend, the Bulldogs beat Marshfield in a thrilling five-set playoff match on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 30.
The Bulldogs, who rallied from an 8-6 deficit in the decisive fifth set, which is played to 15 points rather than 25, advanced to the Class 4A quarterfinals.
And the home fans will get another chance to watch their team, as Baker (16-6) plays host to Philomath (11-9) this evening, Nov. 2, at 6 o’clock.
The winner advances to the four-team state finals Nov. 5-6 at Corvallis High School.
“It feels great, I just hope we continue to build on it,” Baker junior co-captain Jozie Ramos said after the Bulldogs’ exciting win over Marshfield (12-7).
After Baker lost its final regular-season match at Pendleton on Oct. 25, coach Ali Abrego focused on making sure the Bulldogs responded with a better performance in the playoffs.
“The biggest thing you can take away is either you rise to the occasion or you don’t, and if you don’t rise then you regret it for a long time,” Abrego said.
In the first set against Marshfield, neither team had a lead of more than three points, but Baker eventually pulled away late to win 25-22.
Abrego said it was vital for Baker to take an early lead.
“You have to set the tone, especially when they are on the west side of the state, they haven’t seen us and we haven’t seen them,” Abrego said. “Coming out and being hot in the first set and setting the tempo of the second set is a rhythm we need to follow.”
Ramos said the win in the first set gave Baker confidence, and the Bulldogs dominated the second set, winning 25-14.
“It showed,” Ramos said.
But the Pirates from Coos Bay, who traveled more than 450 miles for the match, didn’t wilt under the pressure of a 2-0 deficit.
The Pirates handily won both the third and fourth sets, by scores of 25-15 and 25-16.
“It was just a mental thing for us, we get into a bad habit of when the score is tied we start to panic,” Abrego said.
With the match going to a decisive fifth set, the Marshfield fans rose to their feet to cheer on the Pirates, and the Baker fans responded in kind.
Ramos said it was an electric environment.
“It really pumped up the energy, it brought us all invested in everyone in the gym,” Ramos said.
Abrego said the fan enthusiasm is an incentive for the players.
“The fans have to be engaged, then we have to be engaged,” she said. “I thought they did a good job of being able to give it all in the last set.”
Much like the first set, the final set was close throughout. After Marshfield took the 8-6 lead, Baker rallied to win 15-10.
Abrego said that at the start of the season, she wrote a list of goals on a white board, including winning the Baker tournament, the Greater Oregon League and making it to the Elite Eight.
The Bulldogs have accomplished all three goals.
“I really don’t have a word, it was really, really fulfilling for me being a new coach to a program when you’ve done a lot of things different, and they’re paying off which is nice to see,” Abrego said. “Seeing the girl’s reaction to be able to check off that box ... 100 percent, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Baker and Philomath have one common opponent this season — Burns.
Burns beat Philomath 2-1 at the Sisters tournament on Sept. 18.
Baker played Burns twice, beating the Hilanders 3-2 on Sept. 7 in the Baker gym, and losing 3-1 in the Powder Valley tournament on Oct. 9.