Salem — Chaos is the only word to describe the Canby Cougars and their community, just absolute chaos. The community has endured through years of being down in the dumps, and were delivered the blow of one of their own student-athletes fighting a cancer battle. Regardless, the Cougars gained attention and momentum this year with their football team snapping a two and a half year losing streak, and now the volleyball team does something they haven’t done since 2007, make it to the state quarterfinals. To do it, the Cougars had to battle through defending state runner-up Sprague on the road.
The opening set came out guns blazing, as Sprague battled to an early 5-4 lead. After Canby tied it at eight apiece, the Olys went on a 3-0 run to give themselves an 11-8 advantage. The Cougars fought hard, closing the gap to 13-12 and the teams battled to scores of 16-15 and 19-17 before the Olys opened up a 22-18 advantage that they finished off with a 25-19 first set victory.
Just like the opening set, the teams traded blows to a 4-4 tie early. Canby would find some light and take an 8-7 lead, but Sprague fought back to take the lead 12-11 later on. Canby would regain it 14-13 and lead at points of 16-14 and 19-16, but Sprague emerged from a timeout to rally towards a 20-20 tie and a Cougars timeout. After Canby took the 21-20 lead, Sprague fought to take the lead 23-22, but Canby battled to the end and came out victorious 27-25 in the second set.
Sprague gained some early momentum in the third set, seizing a 6-4 lead. They would extend this advantage out to 9-5 before Canby closed the gap to 10-9. After Sprague opened it back up to 16-12, the Cougars closed it to 17-15, tied it at 17 each, and took the lead 18-17 over Sprague. The teams fought back and forth down the stretch, tied at 21 until Canby took the lead for good at 23-22 on their way to a 25-23 set victory and a 2-1 match lead.
Canby torched the Olys early in the fourth set, taking the 6-3 lead from a disorganized, rattled Sprague team. After Sprague knotted it at nine each, Canby retook the lead 12-10 before the Olys went on a 3-0 run to regain the lead 13-12 and never looked back, having leads of 17-14, 19-15, and 22-18 on their way to the 25-20 set victory, forcing a final set with the Cougars.
Canby blitzed Sprague in the final set, leading 5-1 before Sprague closed it to a 6-4 deficit. After the Cougars had an 8-6 lead, Sprague rallied to tie it at eight apiece. Sprague would take the lead 10-9, but Canby hit the gas pedal, taking the lead 12-10 and leaving the Olys in the dust as they clinched a trip to the state quarterfinals 19-25, 27-25, 25-23, 20-25, 15-10.
On the heels of an amazing victory to clinch a trip to Liberty High School next week at the state quarterfinals, Cougars Caitlin Gay, Daley McClellan, and Ruby Kayser talked about the guaranteed trip to the state tourney, the character of their team, and the journey to this moment in time.
Caitlin Gay on the journey, “This is for all of our seniors, we feel much different about our team, and feel so connected now. We found that special something, it might be magic, I honestly don’t know.”
Daley McClellan on the character of Canby Volleyball, “This win speaks so much to the character of this team, we have such a strong connection and it helps us take our momentum into the game. We told each other, “We need to do this, the time is now”, we’ll probably never get the chance to do this again and get this great opportunity, and I guess that carried us through.”
Ruby Kayser on the guaranteed trip to state, “I think people doubted that we could be there and actually do it, and personally there are a lot of players that worked so hard to get this far, and it becoming a reality for us is showing that the hard work didn’t slip away.”