McNary outside hitter Emily Lettenmaier hits the ball past a pair of West Salem blockers (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

The McNary volleyball team battled despite not being at full strength, but couldn't overcome the strong offensive attack of West Salem as the Celtics fell to the Titans 25-16, 25-22, 25-21 on Thursday, Sept. 23.

“We just didn't capitalize when we had opportunities tonight,” McNary head coach Crystal DeMello said. “We have to have all of our pieces on in order to have success.”

The Celtics were without their junior setter and three-year starter Maddison Corpe, who is expected to miss an extended period of time due to injury according to DeMello — Hailey Schwinof and Taylor Detrant have each spent time stepping into the setter role.

“We are still working through the kinks of our new lineup,” DeMello said. “I think that Hailey and Taylor have stepped in and have done fantastic. It says a lot about them and their ability to step in. But there is always that comfort in having a setter that you have had for a long time.”

McNary got off to a hot start in the opening set, winning seven of the first nine points. But after some struggles with their serve-receive, West Salem was able to go on a 12-3 run to take a four-point lead.

A pair of blocks from McNary's Jaelynn Wilcox got the Celtics within two. But the Titans responded by scoring 10 of the next 13 points to take the game one victory.

West Salem continued their momentum into the second set, going on top 17-8 before DeMello was forced to burn a timeout. However, the Celtics appeared to have new life coming out of the break.

“We had a good timeout and were able to regroup,” DeMello said.

The Celtics scored five of the next six points to trim the deficit. Three straight kills by Emily Lettenmaier made the score 18-16, which got the home crowd more engaged as the Celtics continued to feed the hot hand.

 “When Emily gets going she is hard to stop. She is excellent. If she is on, we will keep feeding her,” DeMello said.

 An ace from Bella Rodriguez and a kill from Maddox Snider allowed McNary to tie the set at 21-all. But the Celtics couldn't finish the game strong as West Salem scored the next four points to take the 25-21 game two win.

“An asset that this team has is that they are strong servers. But tonight we didn't serve as aggressively as we typically do, so we will need to turn that around,” DeMello said.

Despite being down 2-0, McNary came out firing to start the third set thanks to kills by Snider and Lettenmaier, putting the Celtics on top 10-4. But West Salem took advantage of a number of errors and miscues by the Celtics and came back to tie the game at 17-all.

After both teams went back-and-forth to make the score 20-all, West Salem closed the match with a 4-1 run to walk away with the straight-set victory.

“One of the hardest things about competing in volleyball is the mental aspect of the game and moving on as quickly as you can. When you're adjusting to a new lineup, it takes time,” DeMello said. “We need to reassess where we are at and break down what we are doing well and where we need to grow.”

McNary returns home on Tuesday, Sept. 28 to take on Sprague at 6:30 p.m.

Matt Rawlings: [email protected]