With a core group of five seniors and just two years removed from a 1A state title, the North Douglas volleyball team had high hopes entering 2019. Much to their chagrin, the Warriors’ season came to an early end last weekend in the opening round of the OSAA state playoffs.
On Saturday, Nov. 2 seventh-ranked North Douglas (22-10 overall, 12-2 league) traveled to Medford to take on ninth-ranked Rogue Valley Adventist Academy (18-3, 12-1) in a round of 16 matchup, ultimately losing to the Hawks in a five-set heartbreaker, 3-2 (22-25, 25-20, 25-19, 19-25, 18-16).
The loss ended the 2017 state champions’ year and they were left with feelings of frustration and unfinished business.
“We did not play how we normally play,” said head coach Emily Reed after the game. “We had so many mistakes. I can handle defeat if I feel like we were just beaten by a team that’s better than us and I don’t feel like that was the case.”
The Warriors won both the first and third sets to hold a 2-1 lead, but were done in by a litany of mistakes throughout the game. North Douglas had 41 hitting errors and a number of them came in the fifth set where, at one point, the Warriors held a 13-10 lead and were just two points away from reaching the quarterfinals.
“If we had just played a clean game, we would’ve been out of there in three sets,” Reed said.
“We passed well, we served well, but we could not hit the ball. We didn’t even give ourselves an opportunity. When we did get good, hard hits, they had a hard time passing the ball and a hard time returning.”
Saturday’s game was a far cry from North Douglas’ Wednesday, Oct. 30 play-in game against the McKenzie Eagles (11-17, 8-8) where they made only 10 hitting errors and received contributions from up and down the roster.
The Warriors won that contest handily in straight sets, 3-0 (25-18, 25-7, 25-19), which ultimately set up the Round of 16 showdown against Rogue Valley.
“It’s unfortunate because we were, maybe, gifted an easier path [in the playoffs],” Reed said. “We didn’t have to travel to Crane, so two and a half hours isn’t that far considering we have league games that are farther than that.”
Nonetheless, hitting errors, travel distance and a later-than-usual start time did North Douglas no favors and their five graduating seniors — Nicki Derrick, Rilie-Jo Olds, Natalie Draeger, Bailey Holcomb and Kaycee Monagon — will end their high school volleyball career more prematurely than they would have hoped.
From 2016 to 2018, the Warriors lost in the state finals, won the state championship and lost in the semifinals in those three consecutive years. That kind of recent success can make a first round exit feel like a disappointment, but the string of consistent competitive squads is proof that North Douglas volleyball is an operation that reloads, not rebuilds.
If fans are looking for a silver lining, the last time the Warriors graduated at least five varsity seniors, they won the 1A state title the following year. Only time will tell the near future of volleyball in Drain, but a strong organization and coaching staff along with eight returning players with varsity experience in 2020 should spell reason for optimism.