Lions volleyball sends Cheesemakers home

Kendrick Murphy/CG Sentinel

After the emotional roller coaster of the Lions volleyball team beating Siuslaw in a riveting five-set match, Cottage Grove aimed their sights on the visiting Tillamook Cheesemakers for the first round of playoffs.

“I expected a little bit more nerves than what they actually showed,” said Cottage Grove head coach Abby Ladd. “We talked a lot about how we knew we would be okay if we did the things that we needed to do. Playing with mental toughness and playing as a team, following through on all of those. And so we kind of just talked about that. But I mean, for the most part, the girls were just excited for the opportunity.” 

Tillamook’s front line would push the Lions in some spots but the experienced Cottage Grove group would prove to be too much and earn a four-set victory moving onto the next round. 

Early in the first set after a serving ace from Blakely Herbert, the Lions would not seize control of the rest of the set after taking a 5-4 lead. Seniors Gracie Arnold and Taylor McKay would score back-to-back points pushing the Lion’s lead to five at 13-8. Izabell Senters would get involved shortly thereafter scoring two points of her own doubling up Tillamook at 16-8. 

With everything going the way of the Lions, Cottage Grove looked like they were going to run the Cheesemakers off the floor. 

But Tillamook would start to gather themselves as they ran off five points in a row cutting into the Lion’s big lead. Taylor Haltiner would hit the ball in from her outside position forcing Cottage Grove to call a timeout. 

On the ensuing play, Gracie Arnold didn’t allow the set to continue as she finished the first set with an emphatic hit to close out a 25-18 Lions first set win. 

Tillamook would try to flip the script on the first set because in the second set they jumped out to an early 7-0 lead. Cottage Grove would cut into the lead, but the Cheesemakers responded right back. 

Kate Klobas, Makayla Tuiolemotu, and Dannika Goss all made big plays for Tillamook as they held an 18-12 lead in the second set over the Lions. 

But a colossal 7-0 run sparked by Senters’ serving would get Cottage Grove right back into the set and completely shift the landscape of the game. 

“I think we sometimes have a bad habit of getting overconfident,” said Ladd. “Then we kind of lower our standard of play.”

Herbert later served two aces in a row giving the Lions the lead at 22-19. Tillamooks’ mistakes would ultimately kill their chances as the Lions grabbed the second set after two back-to-back mistakes gave Cottage Grove a 25-21 set win. 

On the verge of elimination Tillamook again jumped out to a 15-9 lead and would hold onto the lead until Senters went back to serve later in the set. 

“Any time a server can go on a serving run it’s huge,” said Ladd “The momentum is on your side and it’s easier to get the ball back when you have that momentum. And for her (Senters) to go on that run was huge for us.”

Senters again sparked another huge run for Cottage Grove taking the lead for the Lions at 17-16. Tillamook would have a response this time though as their middle blocker Tuilemotu would carry them with two big hits to a third set victory 25-20 in favor of the Cheesemakers. 

“I told the girls please get this done in the next set because I know you guys want to go to homecoming,” said Ladd jokingly. “We know we can play better than that and we can be way better than we just played.”

The fourth set was virtually a seesaw with neither team wanting to give an inch. Almost in lockstep the whole way the set would be tied for the sixth time at 17-17. 

This time a Cottage Grove run sparked but Gracie Arnold saw the Lions lead to get to three at 20-17 forcing a Tillamook timeout.

The Cheesemakers made two blocks at the net to keep the set close at 24-20 with the Lions still on the verge of advancing. But again, the Cheesemakers’ mistakes sealed their own fate as their last serve went into the net giving the Lions the fourth set victory 25-20. 

“It feels really good to be moving on I am really, really excited and looking forward to the next game against Valley Catholic,” said Ladd “I know the girls are too. We went to a camp with Valley Catholic and we are looking forward to playing them. We’re looking forward to the battle.” 

The Lions will have traveled next to Valley Catholic with a spot for the semi-finals on the line on Tuesday, Nov. 2 before The Sentinel’s press time.

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