There are certain rivals - for any team in any sport - that bring an extra level of competitiveness, an added desire to win, for one reason or another. For Cottage Grove, Marist Catholic High School is one of those rivals and at least last Thursday, Oct. 3, the Lions volleyball team got the job done.
In their second five-setter in five league games, Cottage Grove (8-6 overall, 4-1 league) prevailed against the visiting Spartans (2-9, 2-3) behind contributions from several players, recovering from an error-riddled first set to claim victory 3-2 (16-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-27, 15-9).
In the first five-set match in league play against Siuslaw, head coach Kendra Anderson emphasized the youthfulness of her team and their still-emerging ability to move on quickly from mistakes. This match was evidence of a step in the right direction.
“They did a better job of not being tight,” Anderson said of her team after the match. “They let a few things happen and then let it go instead of holding on to it. So they were better about being able to bounce back quicker.”
Marist’s seemingly lackluster overall record belies their talent level. In preseason, non-league play the Spartans had a number of matches against top-ranked opponents - like Sisters, Hidden Valley and Valley Catholic - a conscious decision by coach Shari Pimental to better prepare her team for the season.
Last Thursday, they certainly appeared to be a well-prepared squad with experience and a defensive-minded playstyle that gave the Lions fits early.
“They have a pretty experienced defensive team. I know their setter is a senior and I feel like at least one, if not two, of the kids that were back there are upperclassmen and have been with the program for a while,” Anderson said of their opponents.
Against a Marist team with seven seniors, the senior-less Lions eventually found their footing and a talented roster of freshmen, sophomores and juniors led the girls to their fourth league win.
“Last year was the first year they were back in our league, so our big thing was, we beat them on the way out, now we’re going to beat them on the way in. It’s always been a rivalry, but not as much recently, just because they haven’t been in our league,” Anderson said, downplaying the historic matchup but still happy with her team’s performance.
Sophomores Peyton Kidd and Gracie Arnold finished with 45 assists and 12 kills, respectively, and freshman Blakely Herbert continued to impress with 13 kills. Junior Matty Ladd led the team with 18 kills and fellow junior Bella Costa had three aces, a team high.
This game wrapped up the first half of the league season for the Lions and they find themselves in a good position, just behind Junction City for the Sky-Em league lead, which is certainly not lost on Anderson.
“We’re starting over. Next Tuesday is the starting-over point, so we just try to beat each team we play that night,” Anderson said. “That’s our goal. We play Junction City in our second-to-last league game, but everyone else in front of that is so important because we want to keep where we’re at and then set ourselves up for that chance [to win the league].”