Gresham falls to Florence in sectional semifinal

Wildcats struggle on offense

Leader Photo by Jacy Zollar Gresham High School senior Kiersten Fischer attacks the ball during Thursday’s WIAA Division 4 sectional semifinal in Lena. Florence defeated Gresham 25-17, 25-22 and 25-18.

Leader Photo by Jacy Zollar The Gresham High School volleyball team lost to Florence in a WIAA Division 4 sectional semifinal on Thursday. The team includes Kennedy Hoffman, Meckenzie Roe, Tiana Ferguson, Savana Olsen, Makayla Belongia, Kiersten Fischer, Kamille Davids, Mackenzie Hoffman, Karisa Nietzer, Kaci Wendorff, Dani Huntington and Hailey Hoffman.

Top-seeded Florence defeated No. 3 Gresham in three sets Thursday in a WIAA Division 4 sectional semifinal in Lena.

The lead changed hands several times in the match before the Wildcats fell 25-17, 25-22 and 25-18.

“We had a tough time finishing Sets 1 and 2,” head coach Tim Wild said. “We couldn’t get that rhythm going to play well enough to beat Florence, and they had a lot of weapons that were tough to slow down.”

Wild said the Wildcats struggled on offense.

“They served really hard, and that made our offense tough to get going,” he said. “When they’re hitting it that hard it’s tough for us to attack hard back. So our offense struggled and then we were stuck defensively at the end when they were slamming them at us.”

“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Florence head coach Joan Canfield said. “They have phenomenal outside hitters and setter, so we knew we needed to attack first and attack hard. We were able to get the momentum back in crucial times and that’s really what helped us win.”

The Wildcats took the first three points in Set 1 and a Hailey Hoffman kill gave them a one-point edge, 11-10. A string of hitting errors gave Florence the lead, but the Wildcats rallied to tie it again at 17-17. Florence took the set 25-17.

Florence took a 7-2 lead in Set 2. Three Karisa Nietzer attacks and Florence hitting errors cut the deficit to one, and back-to-back service aces by Hoffman gave Gresham its first lead of the set. The Wildcats built their largest lead of the night, 20-15, before Florence took momentum with hard attacks. Two Gresham hitting errors ended the set, 25-22.

After a 6-6 tie in Set 3, Florence took 16 of the next 24 points. Florence reached set point, but Gresham stayed in the set with a Mackenzie Hoffman attack and a Karisa Nietzer service ace. A Florence attack ended the set 25-18.

Hailey Hoffman led Gresham with 10 kills and eight service aces. Kamille Davids had eight kills. Huntington tallied 12 assists and 12 digs. Mackenzie Hoffman recorded 10 digs.

Florence’s Bailey Apfel recorded 11 kills, and Karmen Anderson tallied 20 assists.

“It’s obviously not what we wanted, but it’s been such a long time since we’ve even made it this far,” Hoffman said. “The journey’s been tough. We really had to work for it.

To even make it this far, losing tonight is nothing to be ashamed of. And to know our community backs us up and everyone supports us is really special.”

Wild credited the players for making the season special.

“We have great senior leadership,” Wild said. “Our six seniors work incredibly hard out there to keep the girls’ heads in the game, especially when we’re down. All these girls work hard to the very end. They’re fearless.

“This is a season that I’m never going to forget for the rest of my life because of how hard those girls worked.”

Florence will play No. 1 Newman Catholic on Saturday in the sectional final.