In an early-season showdown between two defending league champions, the Prairie volleyball team made one thing clear.
The Falcons are a force to be reckoned with.
Led by returning All-Region player of the year Zoe McBride, Prairie bested Camas at home in three sets on Thursday. The Falcons jumped up early over the reigning 4A Greater St. Helens League champs and withstood a tough third set to win 25-20, 25-17 and 25-19 in its first home game of the season, giving the team a “confidence boost” approaching league play.
“It shows them what they were capable of doing,” Prairie coach Jen Palmer said. “Camas is a phenomenal team, great defenders, phenomenal hitters. We had a really good team effort tonight and moved the ball around with our offense and made some big defensive plays.”
McBride finished with 15 kills, 14 digs, three blocks and two aces. Junior Katie Vroman had 10 kills, three blocks and two digs and senior Megan Hammes had 20 digs and two aces for the Falcons.
Camas hopped up to an early lead in the first set, but Prairie responded with a run that put the Falcons ahead. The Papermakers, who returned most of its key contributors from last season, seldom led until a tightly contested third set.
Keelie LeBlanc had 12 kills and 10 digs and Marriana Payne had two aces and nine kills for the Papermakers.
When a kill from LeBlanc, an all-league selection last season, tied the third set at 12, she delivered another a point later to tie the game at 13 — a back-and-forth that encapsulated the final set until the Falcons took a 21-19 lead, which forced Camas to take a timeout.
“We all knew they were going to come back,” McBride said. “I think we just kind of pushed through, we were like ‘not in our house,’ we’re in our gym, it’s our first home game, and we just pushed through.”
From there, Prairie scored four unanswered to seal the win.
The Papermakers saw immediate positive takeaways.
“This is good for us to open our eyes to coming to practice and having structure, discipline,” Camas coach Michelle Allen said. “I’m happy this happened in preseason going into league. … We’re walking away with our heads high. We just need to know we have a lot more to do.”
Camas budgeted for the 6-foot McBride’s abilities both defensively and in the air, but she proved to be a tough mark.
“We haven’t been put up to a hitter like that … I told the girls, you know what, if you make it to postseason, that’s what we’re going to be running into up in bi-districts and if we make it to state. It just shows how fast we need to work on our blocks.
For Prairie, the win could be a strong indicator of what it can accomplish this season.
“It gives us more confidence,” McBride said. “Going into next week and practice tomorrow we’ll get back to working hard.”