WINCHESTER — It was 31 days since Umpqua last won an NWAC Southern Region volleyball match.
That was a brutal grind that left the Riverhawks out of the postseason and stuck near the bottom of the league standings.
However, a nonleague win over New Hope Christian earlier in the week gave them hope, and a long post-match meeting after Friday night’s loss to Linn-Benton led to the dawning of a new confidence by Saturday afternoon, when UCC hosted Lane in the final home match of the 2017 season.
“We’ve been preparing for it all week,” UCC freshman Karsyn Ramsey said. “We went to New Hope and we beat them and that was a big confidence booster. We said we can do this, we need to do this, and so we did.”
Sophomore Felicia Sparks came up with nine kills, 26 assists and nine digs and Emma Lind and Ramsey both had nine kills as the Riverhawks topped Lane in four sets.
Set scores were 25-17, 20-25, 25-21, 25-21.
“It felt really good to finish with a win on our home floor,” said Sparks, who will finish her UCC playing career on Wednesday when the Riverhawks play at Southwestern Oregon. “It will help us carry the energy into our last match on Wednesday.”
UCC (12-24, 3-10 South) got its last league win against the Lakers in a three-set sweep on Oct. 4. Since then, the Riverhawks has won one of 16 sets in South Region play, and only six sets in all.
“We started off (the season) really good and then we went through a big slump, I guess,” said Lind, who had 14 digs to go with her kills. “It felt like we came out (Saturday) and we were back to the team we had at the beginning.”
Umpqua buried the bad from Friday’s loss to LBCC — which had a high point of 28 digs, 15 by freshman libero Kyrie Keffer and a definitive low with a team hitting percentage of -0.022 — and flipped the script against the Titans (19-19, 4-9).
“(Friday) it was a tough game and we really wanted to come and play strong (Saturday) for our sophomores,” said Lind.
Sparks, who splits time between setter in the back row and outside hitter in the front row, and middle blocker Dominique Wenzler-Steves were among the four girls acknowledged between the second and third sets for their contributions.
They were the top hitters for UCC against Lane, percentage-wise, as Sparks hit a 0.438 clip and Wenzler-Steves was at 0.333. Wenzler-Steves also had three solo blocks and four block assists against the Titans. As a team, Umpqua hit 0.173 and came up with 64 digs.
Lane didn’t go quietly: the match was tied at the intermission and the Titans led much of the fourth set. From start to finish, the final set was a battle of wills and an uphill climb for the Riverhawks as they tried to gain the edge.
“We were positive and we just wanted to fight,” said Sparks. “We were not too worried about the outcome, but we wanted to fight and make the other team stress out.
“It took a lot of energy and we had to really dig deep, like deeper than ever before. There have been some games where we’re not emotionally into it, but this one, we got our heads into it and just fought.”
And they adjusted to what Lane was doing opposite them.
“We really had to find spots on the other side of the court and hit to them,” said Lind. “We had to stop focusing on our errors and just focus on placing the ball and just keep moving forward.”
The Riverhawks started the match with four-time Southern Region Libero of the Week Kyrie Keffer coming off the bench as a defensive specialist as Rachelle Persson got the start at libero. Persson finished with 23 digs and six aces.
Keffer, meanwhile, made a dig in the second set, then abruptly went down when she aggravated an injury from Friday night that she had kept quiet about. Keffer suffered a pulled muscle in Friday night’s and repeated the injury on an awkward dive after a dink in the second set. She spent the rest of the match on the bench with her right leg elevated.
“We didn’t know about it until (Saturday) afternoon, she didn’t want to tell anyone,” said UCC coach Lacy Pinard.