CAMAS — Setting an early tone was at the forefront of the Camas Papermakers’ minds Wednesday against Kelso, and they started it with a different lineup than previous volleyball matches.
On the team’s senior night, Camas rolled out a group showcasing seniors Delaney Clark, Maggie Upkes, Sydney Moltrum, Emmy Hansen and Chloe Asciutto.
Unlike the previous meeting between Camas and Kelso, a five-set grinder that the Papermakers rallied to win, 4A Greater St. Helens League champion Camas took control early in the rematch and never looked back to win 25-15, 25-23, 25-13.
“We played them earlier this season and it started out a little rough for us, but we came back in the end,” Asciutto said. “Going into (tonight), we were definitely like ‘All out, first three sets and get it over with.’ ”
Camas never trailed in the opening set and turned a 7-5 lead into a 14-7 advantage during a run with a barrage of kills from Hansen, Moltrum and Asciutto. The Papermakers went on to increase the deficit to close out the first set.
“It’s just fun to watch them grow the offense and develop everything,” Camas coach Michelle Ford said. “Tonight we did a lineup different than we usually do, so it was good to see them modify and change that.”
Kelso, the 3A GSHL champion, was the aggressor in the second set and took a lead as large as 18-12 following a pair of blocks from Lucy Hight, with kills chipped in from Bella Hadaller, Natalie Fraley and Josie McNew.
Camas started to chip away at the deficit, getting within one point of forcing a tie on three separate occasions, before forcing a 23-all tie on a block at the net and clinching the set on a Kelso hit out of bounds. The defense, Ford said, made all the difference in closing that gap to take a commanding 2-0 set lead.
“Defense always wins, that’s what I always say,” Ford said. “You can have the biggest hitter, but if you can’t pass you’re not going to win a game. So I said focus on our serve-receive, finish our defense and set that block, and that’s what they did. They came back.”
With the 2-0 set lead, Camas didn’t want to let up, thinking back to its last match against Kelso. Camas went on an 9-0 run during the middle of the third led by Sami Tyler and Kendall Mairs in the middle. Each came up with a block, Tyler had three kills and Mairs added a kill during the decisive run.
“We just wanted to keep pushing,” said Mairs, who had a team-high 13 kills along with 12 digs, four digs and two aces. “We just needed to keep the pressure up, keep our teamwork going and playing together.
Also for the Papermakers, Clark led the team with 17 digs, as well as seven kills and one block, Hansen collected 11 kills nine digs and one block, Halle Reiter had 16 digs, three aces and two assists, and Asciutto added three kills and three blocks.
Camas remained undefeated with the win, and got through a week that included the likes of Kelso and Skyview as a good primer for the playoffs.
“It’s awesome,” Asciutto said of the 15-0 run. “We’ve worked really hard and we’re really excited about this season because it’s an amazing group of girls.”
“They like it,” Ford added of the streak. “We really don’t talk too much about it … but really, our biggest goal is building this ladder, this block and state is our biggest goal.
“It’s a good feeling, they like that, but it’s not our biggest conversation. We don’t focus on that, because I think if you do, it (adds to) the nerves and stuff like that.”