Plenty of excitement was felt for the Cottage Grove volleyball team this season. The Lions were able to advance to the quarterfinals, win the Sky-Em league for the first time since 2018, while five of the six starters were named to a conference selection. Second year Head Coach Abby Ladd was also named Sky-Em coach of the year.
“It kind of feels surreal, I guess I never in 100 years saw that I would get coach of the year,” said Ladd. “I definitely attribute it more to the girls than myself. They took everything I said to heart and did their best to follow what I was saying and trust what I was saying. And so, I think that having a group of girls who trust you as a coach is more telling than like winning any award.”
For Ladd, most of that trust probably stems from the fact she has been a longtime part of this program dating back to her playing days in high school at Cottage Grove. Now she has been a part of the coaching staff for four years with this being her second year as the leader of the program. Last season the Lions were second behind Junction City in the league standings but had lost some key seniors who brought size upfront ahead of the 2021 season.
“Coming into this season the team knew that we graduated some height, and that we graduated some longtime varsity players,” said Ladd. “But I think that it was just going through the season recognizing the change of strategy, and the change of emphasis in our play was going to work. And they just had to buy into it and put effort into different things throughout the season, and improve in different areas for themselves and for the team.”
The Lions had plenty of returning players from the 2020 campaign with seven total seniors coming back.
The girls did buy in to the strategy Ladd would employ throughout the season and they saw plenty of success posting a 15-7 overall record, 8-2 in the league, and finished the regular season ranked sixth overall. Though the girls wanted to advance further in the state tournament Coach Ladd is still very proud of what this group was able to accomplish.
“It’s been really great to be able to travel through with those seniors. Because I’ve been able to watch them improve and grow and work through the things that we’ve talked about, and work on that mental toughness,” said Ladd.
“I feel like these girls have grown so much as -that that’s what I’m most proud of,” Ladd added. “It’s great to win games and it’s great to have a league title, and it’s great to be named Coach of the Year. But at the end of the day, what feels the best is watching these girls grow into the women that they’re going to be and continue to grow as they move forward.”
Turning the page on this season and getting a very early look into the seasons to follow Ladd hopes this year could be a springboard for her program in the years to come.
“I hope that this teams and those seniors have set the tone in our program for what we want to do moving forward,” said Ladd. “And for what our mission is, and that it’s about more than just volleyball, it’s about building and focusing on the whole athlete along with build a program where we all support each other.”
Support the Cottage Grove Sentinel’s journalism
Every day at the Cottage Grove Sentinel, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our readers, with information that has the power to inform and save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. The Cottage Grove Sentinel’s work is reaching more people than ever, but journalism takes resources. Your financial contribution will enable our staff to continue to offer quality and volume that this moment requires.
Subscribe today to the Cottage Grove Sentinel.