The hot start for No. 3 McNary volleyball continued Thursday night.
The Celtics (11-0, 6-0) hosted No. 13 South Salem, defeating the Saxons (6-4, 3-3) in straight sets, their seventh sweep of the season.
“Our team meshes together really well, and on the court we all play as one and we’re not individually separated,” senior middle blocker Emily Blagg said. “We all know what’s best for each other, and what to tell each other, and we all have each other’s backs.”
The night got off to a rough start, with the Celtics going down 4-1 early on. But they beared down, scoring the next eight points, forcing a timeout from South Salem head coach Matt Leichty.
“We all gathered our mindset together and we all kind of woke up,” Blagg said. “We fixed our fundamentals and we made it easier.”
The break didn’t do much to quell the McNary momentum, as they forced another timeout at 15-7, before finishing South Salem off 25-11 in the first set.
McNary head coach Crystal Ayres was confident in her team’s ability to make the necessary adjustments and take control.
“Once they settle into their rhythm, sometimes it’s right off the bat and sometimes it takes a couple seconds for them to get their communication going, they pull through,” Ayres said. “South came out really strong so we made some adjustments and they got it done”
Warmed up, the Celtics kept the pressure going to start the second set, going up 11-6 and once again forcing a timeout from the Saxons. South Salem was able to trim a six point deficit down to two before McNary stormed back to go up 20-15, and finished things 26-16.
But down 2-0, the Saxons didn’t pack up. The third set was the most competitive of the night, at one point each team led by four. The Saxons took their four point lead, 14-10, but the Celtics knotted the set up at 17, and the Saxons called another timeout.
Those timeouts from South told Ayres that her team was doing things right.
“If the other team is needing to call a timeout, it’s because the girls have made the appropriate adjustments and shots, and kept the pressure on,” Ayres said.
With the score tied at 22, Ayres called her first timeout. She doesn’t feel the need to use many timeouts, because Ayres said the team is extremely intelligent and able to make necessary changes themselves.
“They have a high volleyball I.Q. They know what to do and how to make adjustments,” Ayres said. “So with the little amount of interference it creates, it allows them to create their own momentum.”
And while Ayres was tight-lipped about the specifics of what she said to the team during the timeout, she did say it was about little adjustments and just taking a breath, and it was enough.
With McNary at match-point at 24-23, South Salem nearly sent the set to tiebreak, but McNary kept the ball alive deep past the backline, and eventually put away the final point.
It’s a busy time for McNary volleyball, with the Thursday night game, six games coming up at the Rogue Valley Classic tournament on Saturday, Sept. 24, and then a match at Sprague on Tuesday, Sept. 27. The Celtics had a similar eight match week last week, and another coming next week.
Such a hectic and compacted schedule could be an issue, but Ayres feels with the proper recovery and rehab, the Celtics shouldn’t have any problem with the game load.
“Rest, recovery, nutrition, hydration, a day of yoga and technical fundamental days, just like any training program, they’re essential to these long stretches,” Ayres said. “And especially a day off.”