Lady Lions sink Pirates. Twice

Cottage Grove junior setter Peyton Kidd celebrates the Lady Lions win. Cottage Grove swept Marshfield in two separate matches last week to go 5-1 in league. (Photo by Ned Hickson/The Sentinel)

Cottage Grove d Marshfield: 25-12, 25-18, 25-17

Cottage Grove d Marshfield: 20-25, 25-17, 25-17, 25-18

On Friday (March 19), Cottage Grove’s volleyball team hosted a doubleheader against Marshfield at home, playing two full games back-to-back on the Lions’ Senior Night.

Cottage Grove issued the Pirates two major defeats, winning the first game in three sets, and the second game in four sets.

Coach Abby Ladd explained that a doubleheader was not an ideal situation, however in the interest of accommodating both sides and playing as many league games as possible, the Lions opted to be the host with the most.

“Marshfield is still in extreme risk in Coos County,” said Ladd, “so they can’t host any home games this season. So, rather than traveling to Cottage Grove two separate times, they wanted to do a doubleheader. And we did everything we could to make it work for them, because given the situation, you kind of have to be flexible, so we made it happen.”

Going into the first game of the afternoon, Ladd had several concerns.

“I was honestly a little bit nervous for the varsity girls to play two full games of the three out of five sets because of the injuries we’ve been having thrown our way,” explained Ladd. “Blakely Herbert just came back this week, and this was only her second game of the season. So, making sure she was ready to go, and everything was rolling and going well, I was a little bit anxious, but they did a really good job.”

Ladd described how things came together for the girls in the first game.

“It was a combination of everything,” said the coach. “We have been working a lot on our mental game — how we can set the pace on our own side and focus on what we’re doing and not let what’s happening on the other side of the net affect our game. And I think that those scores really show that we had taken it to heart.”

Ladd ran a different lineup in all three sets of the first game. “So, the score variations show their adjustment to the new lineups, but they stayed really strong mentally,” Ladd said. “We played a very controlled game, and we kept sending balls to the other side. We talk all the time about how it’s not who scores the most points — it’s who makes the least amount of errors.” The Lady Lions kept the pressure on Marshfield, forcing the Lady Pirates to make mistakes.

Cottage Grove had an explosive first game with 26 kills overall, seven of them coming from Avery Hutchins. Said Ladd, “Avery played really well in both games. In that first game, she was one of the two tied for the most kills. And then she played really, really well in the second game, too, and had a lot of blocks.”

Ladd has been working with Hutchins this year on her blocking technique, although she already has a stunning height advantage.

“She’s huge, she’s like 6’2”,” said Ladd, “so we’ve been working a lot in practice on keeping arms up while blocking to hold that block longer, because even when [she’s] just standing on the ground, if [her] arms are up, [she’s] putting up a good block.”

After a crushing victory, the Lionesses had one more bit of business before beginning their second game: Senior Night.

Parents escorted this year’s seniors — Matty Ladd, Avery Hutchins and Bella Costa — out to the middle of the court, where they received flowers, balloons and well-earned recognition. Emotions were understandably running a bit high following the ceremony, which may have caused the team to lose some of its focus going into game two. Consequently, the Lions lost the first set of the next match.

“We did really well in the first game, and we had a lot of things that we were able to articulate that we did really well, but I think they thought that moving into the next match was going to be a breeze, and then it wasn’t.”

At this point, Ladd knew some adjustments had to be made to realign her team’s focus.

Ladd told the team it was going to be even harder after losing the first set because the Lions now had to take the momentum back and refocus that into controlled play.

With renewed focus, Cottage Grove won the next three sets.

“Matty Ladd did a really good job,” said Ladd. “She played hard in that game and was one of the ones who I think really talked up the team and was on the court making sure to build people up and bring the positivity. But she also played a really great game. She had an insane amount of kills.”

Additionally, Ladd mentioned Peyton Kidd’s performance.

“She’s our setter who runs a five-one, so she’s the only one out there,” said Ladd, “and she works hard and does a really good job. She’s really smart, she’ll dump and when she’s in the front row, she’ll take an approach and swing, and she’s really aggressive.”

Overall, the Lionesses played two stellar matches, bringing their league record to 5-1.

Tuesday (March 23), Cottage Grove hosted Elmira at home (scores were unavailable at press time.)

The Lady Lions play tonight on the road at Junction City, beginning at 6:45 p.m.

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