West Linn was just resilient enough to overcome gritty Canby in a 6A volleyball battle on Tuesday
West Linn was just resilient enough to overcome gritty Canby in a 6A volleyball battle on Tuesday

Canby and West Linn played another regular-season thriller on Tuesday at Canby. West Linn (3-0) fought off two match points in the fourth set before dominating the fifth to prevail, 25-18, 21-25, 24-26, 29-27, 15-6, and remain unbeaten on the season.

Canby head coach TJ Schlatter wondered, before the match, whether her team, which graduated six seniors off of last year’s 6A third-place team, could hold off the powerful Lions.

West Linn returned virtually everyone from last year’s fifth-place team. The Lions were considered the second-best team in the state after Jesuit heading into this season and were seeking revenge from a state tournament sweep last season at the hands of the Cougars in the third-place match.

Schlatter discovered that her newly constituted team was more than up for the challenge. Behind a career night from superstar Daley McClellan, Canby matched West Linn point for point before running out of gas in the final set.

“I couldn't be more proud of this team and their efforts tonight!” Schlatter said. “We were definitely physically outmatched, but we played with such grit and teamwork! It was a good lesson in how important working together as a team is, and how together you can accomplish great things.”

West Linn coach Emilie Wilmes said her team also learned something about itself: You can’t doubt how good you are.

“Once the players came together as one and found a way to get everyone involved, they played to their capability,” she explained.

West Linn played its best ball in the first and fifth sets. The Lions played like they were bent on settling a score as the match got underway. Getting kills from Emily Warmenhoven, Audra Wilmes and Ella Nordquist, the Lions ran to a 6-1 lead and never trailed. Canby got within two at 12-10 on successive McClellan kills, but West Linn countered with a 5-0 run, sparked by Nordquist’s net play, to pull away for the comfortable win.

Canby found its footing midway through the second set. A three-point run, sparked by a Caitlin Gay ace and strong net play from Daphne Kropf, gave the Cougars a 12-10 lead. The remainder of the set went back and forth until three straight errors gave Canby a 23-20 lead. A McClellan kill and ace from libero Samantha Vandecoevering closed out the set and knotted the match.

Serving errors and so many nets…they played a huge part in slowing our momentum,” said Wilmes.

Canby won a close third set as well. Kate Griffin’s two aces staked West Linn to a 4-0 lead before the Cougars clawed their way back in, on the strength of Gay’s well-placed tips to the middle and McClellan’s extraordinary all-around effort. Tied at 21-21, McClellan clamped an out of system swing to give Canby the lead, then slammed home on of her match-high 49 kills to extend it. West Linn sandwiched two Canby miscues around a Warmenhoven ace to take a 24-23 lead only to see McClellan score the equalizer and, after a Kropf kill off the block, the game clincher, with authority.

West Linn was out of sorts for much of the fourth set. Canby took an early 13-8 lead and was confounding the Lions with Gay’s small ball.

“Our block timing was off on all those tips,” Coach Wilmes explained. “They’re the fastest team we’ve played. Our challenge was to transition from the slower paced teams to this one.”

West Linn’s deficit was still four, 21-17, as the set entered its late stages. West Linn rallied to tie at 23-all on the strength of Wilmes, its senior star heading to the University of Washington next fall. She had two kills and an ace in a 6-2 run that gave the Lions all the momentum.

McClellan, who will play at Oregon next year, snapped home a kill from the back row pipe to blunt West Linn’s momentum and give Canby its first match point.

Coach Wilmes encouraged her team to keep fighting.

“’You’re making the other team look like All-Americans,’” she told them. “They were making it harder on themselves, doubting how good they can be. They have to learn to play for themselves and the team as a whole.”

Warmenhoven, an athletic junior outside, came up clutch with a definitive swing for West Linn to send the set to extras.

Another scoring roll shot from Gay, which ended a spirited rally, gave Canby (2-1) a second match point opportunity, but it was thwarted by a player in the net.

West Linn seized the momentum on the next point when a big Griffin dig led to Warmenhoven’s conversion. The Lions needed three set points to force a fifth set but finally converted, thanks to a Wilmes kill and a Canby ball handling error.

The final set was all West Linn. With Warmenhoven and Wilmes banging away on the outside, Lily Snook and Shealyn Cecil playing lights out defensively and senior middle Rayna Reynolds delivering a momentum-extending block, the Lions broke a 4-4 tie with a 9-1 run that finally took the fight out of Canby. Warmenhoven and Wilmes each had four kills in the set, but it was sophomore Addie Hoover who powered home the match winner off of a Brooklyn Bevacqua set.

Warmenhoven finished with 23 kills to lead West Linn. Wilmes had one fewer, with 22, but hit an astounding .488. Snook finished with 17 digs. Reynold added four blocks, all in the final two sets.

McClellan’s 49 kills for Canby were generated on a whopping 97 attempts. She hit a stunning .424. Gay, a natural libero playing outside, finished with 15 kills. Both also recorded double digit digs, as did Vandecoevering.  

“Daley McClellan had one of her best matches ever and was spectacular!” Schlatter said. “And so did Caitlin Gay.”

Final note: McClellan, who wore No. 8 last season, is wearing No. 4 this year to honor Schlatter’s son, A.J., a Canby star athlete himself who passed away in 2016 at age 20.

Ruby Kayser wore it the last three years,” Coach Schlatter said. “Both girls represent exceptionally well, ‘What it Means to Wear #4.’"