Kennedy has seven players on its roster. Here are five of them and a quality quintet they are! Photo by Jodi Arritola
Kennedy has seven players on its roster. Here are five of them and a quality quintet they are! Photo by Jodi Arritola

Booming spikes are crowd pleasers in volleyball, but controlling the ball wins matches. Kennedy of Mt. Angel exhibited better ball control from start to finish and put constant pressure on St. Paul with its serve. The result was a 25-17, 25-16, 25-17 home win for the Trojans on Monday evening, in a match that pitted the reigning 2A champions against the two-time defending 1A champs.

Kennedy is a veteran group – the 2A Trojans play five seniors and a junior – and it shows when they play. The Trojans play with confidence and deal with adversity by focusing on the next point. They were never flustered when St. Paul went on runs and usually matched or exceeded any Buckaroo scoring sprees with one of their own.

“We have a veteran team and that showed today,” Kennedy head Jessica Schmidtman. “We make the right decisions on the court.”

It helps to have four-year starters like OH Hailey Arritola and S/MB Ellie Cantu on the court. Those two, who also have been on two state championship basketball teams, take good care of the first two contacts. And they know how to win.

This was the second meeting in the past week between the teams. They played at St. Paul six days ago and Kennedy also swept, although the first set went to extra points.

St. Paul head coach Les Hiller said that the first time the teams met, her Buckaroos suffered from a slow start. They started quickly today, taking a 3-0 lead in the first on the tough serving of DS Siena Garstka. Kennedy answered with four straight, sparked by two kills in the middle from 5-10 senior Emma Beyer and the serving of Arritola, and never trailed again.

Kennedy extended its lead to 14-8, as the Trojans took advantage of St. Paul errors. Paige Curtis, a lefty playing middle, connected to right St. Paul, and the 1A school went on a run, aided by ace serves from Garstka and setter Jordan Caldwell, to get within 15-14.

St. Paul would get no closer, however. Strong serving from Kelsey Kleinschmit and a couple of kills from Elise Suing helped extend Kennedy’s lead to 20-15 and the Trojans scored the final three points, including a block from Cantu and a Suing ace, to win comfortably.

The second set started out promising for St. Paul (6-3). Sparked by sophomore pin hitter Halsey Hempfling, the Buckaroos turned around a 2-0 deficit to lead 4-3. The game stayed close until a 6-0 run put Kennedy on top for good at 16-10. Arritola started the run with a savvy tip.

“She’s our ‘glue’ player,” noted Schmidtman. “She’s our best passer – she plays libero for North Pacific Juniors – and is a savvy hitter. She is athletic and elevates well and can hit hard down the line or in the seam, but knows when to tip to the sweet spot in the middle.”

Cantu added to the run with two aces.

“Ellie is one of the top setters in the state,” Schmidtman said. “She has consistent location and, this year, she also blocks middle in the front row. She plays the two most tiring positions, but works so hard to get to every ball. I’m proud of her for taking that on.”

St. Paul got late Game 2 kills from Stella Koch and Mary Davidson, but never got closer than five points. Arritola, who started at libero the previous three seasons, delivered a quality swing to score the penultimate point for Kennedy, which won on a combo block from Cantu and Kleinschmit.

Game 3 felt a lot like the first two.

“We kept them out of system with their serves,” Schmidtman said.

St. Paul tasted the lead, at 3-2 on a tandem block from Hempfling and Koch, but ceded it thanks to a spate of errors. The set remained close until a 4-0 Kennedy run, highlighted by Beyer’s big block, made it 11-7 Trojans.

Match statistics were not immediately available, but Beyer absolutely dominated the net, both with big time terminations and by getting her hands on St. Paul swings.

“Emma was great in system,” Schmidtman said. “She connected on a few slides, which was good, and did a great job getting her hands on lots of balls to slow their rhythm.”

Beyer had two late kills as Kennedy extended its lead to the end and finished the match with back-to-back solo stuffs.

Kennedy (8-0) has four matches left in its quest for an unbeaten regular season. The Trojans will be tested, however, as they take on 1A Dufur tomorrow at home – the Rangers have yet to drop a set – then travel to 3A Amity (8-1) on March 30.