HILLSBOR0 — Eighth-ranked West Albany won six straight points to overcome a 23-19 deficit in the third game and clinch a 25-19, 25-12, 25-23 upset win over second-ranked Ashland in the OSAA Class 5A state quarterfinals this morning at Liberty High School.
The Grizzlies snapped out of a slump to take control of the third game at the midway point, scoring seven straight points to turn a 10-7 deficit into a 14-10 lead. But the scrappy Bulldogs, who upset Glencoe in five games to advance to the tournament, stayed close until their final rally stunned Ashland, clinching the match on Mona Goudarzian's block.
Goudarzian terrorized the Grizzlies all match long, finishing with 15 kills and 21 digs.
The win advances the Bulldogs (14-4), the No. 2 seed out of the Mid-Willamette Conference, to tonight's semifinal round, where they will battle fourth-ranked Mountain View for a trip to the finals. Ashland (21-12-1) falls into the consolation bracket, where it will face Crescent Valley at 8 a.m. Saturday.
Ashland beat third-ranked Pendleton in four games on Nov. 1 to advance to the state tournament, but struggled to gain the same precision against West Albany.
"I feel that we didn't give it everything that we could," Ashland coach Jodee Scott said. "I felt like this was a different team than the one that played Pendleton, but it's a different format — it's a state tournament and there's lots of stress, a lot of nerves, and we held back a little bit. We weren't being as aggressive as we could."
West Albany's final surge summed up the match. After a service error gave Ashland what looked like a comfortable four-point lead, the Bulldogs got three straight kills from Goudarzian, including a tip that cut the lead to 23-22.
Madison Mundie's block of Hayley Ross tied the game at 23-all, and West Albany suddenly had all the momentum.
"I really don't know (what happened)," said Ashland senior setter Kiley Pinder, who had 16 assists and nine digs. "They got a kill, we got scared. We held back. We didn't put everything out there and I think we could have really played a whole lot better."
Senior middle blocker Talor Hartrick led the Grizzlies with seven kills, five digs and two blocks, while junior middle Niki Small added seven kills and one block. Senior outside hitter Asia Kane had nine digs and five aces and Ross finished with six kills.
Ashland also got seven digs out of junior defensive specialist Elizabeth Westmoreland and four aces from junior DS Monica Palmesano.
In Game 2, Ashland came out firing and took a quick 5-1 lead, but a dramatic momentum shift followed. West Albany scored 10 straight points to go up 11-5 and never saw its lead dip below four points the rest of the way.
In Game 1, neither team led by more than three points until West Albany used a 5-0 run, bolstered by three straight kills and a block, to take a 20-15 lead. Ashland fought back to within 20-18 on a Kane kill, but the Bulldogs went on another 4-0 run to all but put it away.
"My girls these last couple weeks have been playing relaxed and they've been really enjoying themselves," West Albany head coach Kelli Backer said. "I thought my girls came in a little bit nervous this morning and then shook it off and relaxed. They were having fun, they were smiling and, with this group, if they're smiling, they're playing well."