Woodland volleyball captures nail-biter against Ridgefield

Beavers outlast Spudders in five sets to win

By Micah Rice, Columbian Sports Editor

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RIDGEFIELD — How close is the chase for the 2A Greater St. Helens League volleyball title going to be this year?

If Woodland’s five-set win over Ridgefield on Thursday is any indication, pretty darn close.

Woodland (5-1, 4-0) triumphed in a match that was about as even as a volleyball match can be. The most lopsided set was decided by just three points, with four needing at least one extra point (26-24, 22-25, 24-26, 27-25, 17-15)

That’s why after the final point, Woodland celebrated as if it were a postseason win.

“This one was huge,” freshman captain Emma Swett said. “Now we’ll have a lot more confidence going into league.”

Ridgefield (3-2, 3-1) has won the last five 2A GSHL titles. Even though her team came out on the short end, Spudders coach Sabrina Dobbs marveled at how close Thursday’s match was.

“This is the first time they got to see a match that was this tense all the way through,” Dobbs said. “I can’t be upset about this match.”

Not much separated Ridgefield and Woodland last year either. Both teams reached state, with Woodland placing second and Ridgefield sixth.

Yet both teams are adjusting to change this year. Woodland has a new coach in Danielle Hutton after longtime coach Jeff Nesbitt retired.

So far, that transition in leadership is going smoothly.

“She’s helped to keep the main traditions, but she has also changed things a lot,” senior captain Vanessa Franke said. “She has just really brought a lot to this program. I couldn’t be happier.”

Hutton has learned plenty about her team since taking charge of the program. Thursday’s match showed her it can handle pressure.

“We came into this with the expectation of a tough match and we fought hard,” Hutton said. “I’ve never been so proud of a team before, to be honest.”

Taylor Foster had a team-high 14 kills while Franke added 13, including two in the fifth set as Woodland took a 12-8 lead. Ridgefield would rebound, evening the set at 14 and 15 apiece. But Woodland eventually got the two points it needed to seal the match.

Ridgefield was a senior-laden team last year. But the Spudders have reloaded largely behind sisters Anika and Delaney Nicoll. Anika, a senior, had a team-high 14 kills Thursday while Delaney, a sophomore, had 10 kills, 5 aces and 25 assists.

WOODLAND 3, RIDGEFIELD 2

26-24, 22-25, 24-26, 27-25, 17-15

Woodland

Highlights — Nicole Guthrie 20 assists, 13 digs, Elyse Booker 23 digs 2 aces, 2 kills; Olivia Andersen 5 kills, Emma Swett 6 kills, 13 digs, 25 assists; Taylor Foster 14 kills, 2 blocks, 2 aces; Vanessa Franke 13 kills, 2 blocks, 3 aces.

Ridgefield

Highlights — Haley Paul 9 kills, 4 digs; Delaney Nicoll 10 kills, 3 blocks, 5 aces, 8 digs, 25 assists; Bailey Norris 12 digs; Anika Nicoll 14 kills, 3 blocks, 3 aces, 4 digs; Kenadi McCaskill 24 digs; Presley McCaskill 6 kills, 1 block, 1 dig; Kameryn Reynolds 6 kills, 6 blocks; Kohana Fukuchi 2 kills, 20 assists; Emelia Stepaniuk 4 blocks, 1 dig; Mackenzie Sparks 1 ace, 5 digs.