Lady Lions reach playoffs, fall to Sweet Home

photo by Ned Hickson/Cottage Grove Sentinel

Last week, the Lions’ volleyball team had the chance to compete for first place in the Sky-Em League, with playoffs being a possibility as well. Although they did not win the game needed to take first place in the league, Cottage Grove did place high enough to compete in the playoffs this week.

The Lady Lions’ final league game of the regular season was last Thursday (April 1) at Siuslaw High School. Going into the game, Cottage Grove knew that if they won, they would play against Junction City the next night to determine who would take first place in the league.

It was a very high energy game, but despite the fact that they were able to pull out a win in the first set, the Vikings swept the next three sets to win the match — putting the Lions in second place overall. Since the Lions had defeated the Vikings in their previous match-up, the loss was definitely an upset. Coach Abby Ladd discussed the possible reasons her team struggled to take the win over Siuslaw this time around.

“I think that we went into the game feeling really confident because we had beaten them before,” said Ladd. “We were focused on playing a tiebreaker against Junction City the next day, and not completely focused and all in on that game.

“Then, when Siuslaw was playing hard and doing really well, individually, the girls all started to shut down. They were frustrated with themselves; they were frustrated with each other; they were struggling to pull it together.”

Overall, it seemed that Cottage Grove simply wasn’t ready to match the raised energy and intensity level of the Vikings that evening. After the loss, the girls met on Friday to practice, knowing that the playoffs were a possibility.

“We knew that there was a chance,” said Ladd, “because we knew they were going to pull two second place [teams to the playoffs], so we practiced on Friday anyway. I told the girls, ‘If we go to the playoffs, at least we practiced. And if not, let’s end on a more positive note. Let’s just have a fun practice. Let’s just play. Let’s be together. Let’s be a team.’”

After putting a bit of positive closure on the season, Ladd received a pleasant surprise.

“As I was walking out of the gym,” she said, “I got a text from our athletic director that we were going to go to the playoffs. So, I was like, ‘Bring it back, ladies!’ I let them know that we were going, and they were all excited about the opportunity.”

The top eight teams of the Sky-Em League played Tuesday (April 6), including Cottage Grove, who played against Sweet Home.

Going into the game, Ladd said, “We’re all very excited and hopeful for this opportunity. I’m hoping they hold on to that and realize that this is a very lucky opportunity, and they play like they’re excited to be there.”

Unfortunately, the Lady Lions were unable to take the win Tuesday, ending their playoff run — But still with a standout record in a season that was challenging for all.

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