RPI Tourney is Warriors biggest test yet

Nicki Derrick (2) and Natalie Draeger (8) are two of the senior leaders for a talented North Douglas volleyball team. NICK SNYDER/CG SENTINEL

For a team with such a dominant recent history, North Douglas volleyball (13-6 overall, 6-1 league) has already seen its relative share of ups and downs throughout this 2019 season.

It was a day of highs and lows last Sat., Sept. 28 as the Warriors participated in the all-day McKenzie RPI Tournament in Vida, Ore., ultimately splitting their four matches and ending the day with a loss in the consolation final to fourth-ranked Damascus Christian (13-2, 4-0).

“They always battle. I’m always proud of them because they don’t ever just give up and we haven’t done that all year, no matter if we’re down by 10, they’re fighting the whole way till the game’s over,” said head coach Emily Reed after the tournament.

North Douglas started the day locked in. Taking on the same Damascus team they would lose to later in the day, the Warriors came out focused and energized, defeating the Eagles in straight sets, 2-0.

“When we played Damascus in the morning, that was a dominant performance. Everyone played great and they were loud and had energy,” said Reed, though the team still had a long day ahead of them.

“I know they were tired by the end of the day. I get it, we played four matches, but when we played Damascus again we were like a completely different team. We had 21 kills and 20 hitting errors which has plagued us all season.

Nonetheless, this was a tournament that provided North Douglas with their stiffest, most consistent competition yet. There were five teams who held spots in the OSAA 1A top-10 rankings represented at the tournament, the Warriors (#7) and league rival Days Creek (#4) included.

“There were a lot of teams ranked above us when we went in there. When they did the RPI rankings and kind of came up with a [tournament] schedule, we were towards the bottom actually. We weren’t one of the top teams so I was really proud of them for going in there yesterday,” Reed continued.

After the morning victory against Damascus, North Douglas then lost 0-2 to the aforementioned Days Creek - the eventual tournament champion -  putting them into the consolation bracket.

“We just have this mental block against Days Creek and can’t figure out how to get out of it. When we went over to the other gym and saw we were playing Days Creek, it was, like, instantly the girls are panicked,” said Reed about the loss to their fellow Skyline League rival.

From there, the Warriors defeated 2A Reedsport 2-1 before the loss to Damascus in their second match-up of the day, getting beat handily 0-3 (14-25, 19-25, 18-25).

“This year we’ve been working on meshing this team together because it is kind of an unusual compilation of girls,” Reed added.

“Trying to get them to all play together and be consistent, we’re still working on that. The last couple years they’ve had a superstar on their team … when times were tough, those superstars would pull them out of whatever they needed to pull them out of and we don’t have that and the girls know that.”

On the day, the team was led by sophomores Halli Vaughn (22 kills), Samantha MacDowell (34 digs) and Cydni Dill (4 aces), seniors Riley Jo Olds (15 kills), Nicki Derrick (13 kills), and Natalie Draeger (11 kills), as well as team tournament MVP and freshman Brooklyn Williams.

“She just had a solid day,” said Reed. “She didn’t make a ton of mistakes. She did the things we needed her to. She had solid stats and she didn’t make a ton of hitting errors. That’s why [as a freshman] she ended up with her spot. She’s very confident.”

With six matches remaining in a season that is quickly winding down, the Warriors are a deep, talented team that will continue looking for the chemistry and consistency that can propel them forward once the playoffs arrive.

North Douglas next travels to Glendale (1-10, 0-7) where they will look to secure a win and keep pace with current league leader Days Creek.

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