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The Ellensburg High School volleyball team held its own against visiting Class 4A Big-9 Conference rivals West Valley and Eastmont in its opening non-league week.

Ellensburg jumped out to third-and-fourth-set leads but fell 3-1 (21-25, 18-25, 25-12, 20-25) to West Valley Saturday after sweeping Eastmont 25-14, 25-23, 25-21 Thursday.

“We appreciate the challenges and opportunities to learn,” said coach Jesse Stueckle, whose Bulldogs (1-1 overall) are scheduled next for the 80-team Sundome Volleyball Festival at 9 a.m. Sept. 18, in Yakima. “These type of matches are exactly what we want to expose areas of our offense and defense to improve.”

West Valley (3-0) led the first set 20-15 and Ellensburg came to within two at 23-21 but could not complete the comeback. The Rams built a 23-15 advantage in the second but closed it out.

The Bulldogs jumped out 7-0 in the third, however, and forced a West Valley timeout at 18-9 on the way to spiking the final point.

Ellensburg started 8-1 in the fourth, but the Rams drew even at 13, led 24-19 and closed with a serve that skimmed the top-center of the net and fell to the Bulldogs’ mid-court logo.

Leah Drexler’s 21 digs and 15 perfect passes helped to keep the Bulldogs in it, Abby Harrell landed 15 kills with 14 digs and eight perfect passes, and Kacey Mayo dished out 20 assists, five digs and three aces.

Against Eastmont (0-3), Harrell notched 20 kills, five saves and three aces, and Reaghan Naboychik and Alana Marrs came away with five and four respective kills.

Ellensburg dealt 12 aces, of which Drexler dealt four, and Mayo and Lilly Button dished out 14 and 11 respective assists.

“I thought we served tough and played well at times, but we need to continue to pass the ball with greater consistency,” Stueckle said. “I loved the energy we played with and our ability to work through the ups and down of the match. It was great to be playing in front of our fans and have our student K-9 unit in full force. We need to stay focused on the small things and continue to improve each practice.”

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