Astoria volleyball? Fishermen fans were diggin’ it after one game Tuesday night, in a Cowapa League match against No. 1-ranked Valley Catholic.

Shortly after celebrating Senior Night and honoring their three seniors, No. 4-ranked Astoria took the Valiants to school in Game 1, with the Fishermen making fantastic dig after fantastic dig in a 25-20 win — the first Cowapa team this year to win a set against Valley Catholic.

And the Lady Fish had their moments over the remainder of the match as well, but the Valiants were just too deep and too talented, as Valley Catholic won the next three sets and left the Brick House with a four-set win, 20-25, 25-19, 25-20, 25-17 victory.

The top-ranked Valiants improve their league record to 7-0, 21-2 overall, with one league match remaining, Thursday at home vs. Tillamook.

Astoria finishes league play at 4-4, a half-match behind Banks (4-3), which plays Thursday at Seaside.

“It was definitely one of our best defensive nights,” said Astoria coach Jessie Todd. “I was talking with their coach (Becky Kemper) after the match, and she said, ‘your girls played some great defense tonight.’

“The thing is, (the Valiants) have so many weapons in so many places, you have to play great defense to have a chance,” Todd said. “They’ve got a lot of experience, they’re well-coached, and they’ve got great athletes in every single position, every single rotation.”

Still, it was all going Astoria’s way in Game 1.

Halle Helmersen delivered a pair of kills to get things started, which was followed by a couple spikes from Kelsey Fausett, an ace serve by Taja Tuimato and Helmersen’s block on Maddie Klopcic to give Astoria an 11-7 lead.

The Valiants rallied and forced ties at 16, 17 and 18, before the Fishermen reeled off three straight points highlighted by a kill from Kajsa Jackson and an ace by Skylar Sturtz.

A net violation on the Valiants and a kill off the block by Julia Norris finished off Game 1.

The one win alone made Todd’s night.

“I couldn’t have been happier,” she said. “Valley Catholic had not lost a game in league play this year, so to take a game from them shows how well we played. It was just what we needed, to give us confidence going into the post-season and the play-in round.”

As it turned out, the one win was all Astoria would get.

Astoria held leads of 13-10 and 16-14 in Game 2, but Valley’s Allie Merz — a six-foot senior setter — keyed an 11-3 run for the Valiants with sets to Klopcic and freshman Naima Foster that resulted in kills, and Merz served up two aces down the stretch to even the match at 1-1.

Valley Catholic jumped out to a 13-5 lead in Game 3, before Astoria rallied to within 20-19, on the strength of more well-placed kills by Fausett and ace serves from Helmersen and Hailey O’Brien.

But Valley closed the set on a 5-1 run to take a 2-1 lead.

Astoria held a 9-6 lead in Game 4, but Merz again highlighted a Valiant rally, as Valley Catholic outscored the Fishermen 15-8 to take command.

Zoey VanVleet had a few ace serves, Frances Eisenhardt added another, and junior Gretchen Kibbe capped the night with a kill at match point.

Helmersen paced Astoria with 11 kills, 13 digs and four aces, with Fausett adding 13 kills and nine digs, while Skylar Sturtz had 10 digs and three aces.

Junior Varsity: Valley Catholic def. Astoria, 15-25, 25-15, 25-16, 24-26, 6-3 (time limit).

In other Cowapa League action Tuesday, Tillamook swept Seaside, 25-16, 25-8, 25-16.

Gary Henley is a sports reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 503-861-8493 or ghenley@dailyastorian.com.

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