Florence — The Oregon Coast played host to a clash between Sky Em League power Cottage Grove and red hot up and coming Siuslaw on Tuesday night. The Lions entered the evening 4-0 in league play, rounding out their first half of league action against Siuslaw, a young program that entered scorching hot after winning the Junction City Tournament over the weekend and a huge conference dub over the Tigers last Thursday. With a boisterous student section on hand in Florence, it was going to be a hostile environment for the Lions to perform in.
The opening set was extremely tight from the start, with the teams not allowing more than two points of separation from each other. Cottage Grove would grab a late 20-18 lead, but Siuslaw went on a 3-0 run to snatch it back 21-20. After handing the lead back and forth again, the Vikings closed out Cottage Grove with a Rhianna Lane kill to take it 25-23 in the opening set. In the second round, Siuslaw blew open a quick 5-0 lead on Cottage Grove, breaking away at break neck speed to advantages of 7-1 and 12-2. With all the momentum and chemistry flowing, the Vikings wouldn’t let up at all and took a commanding 2-0 match lead with a 25-13 second set win.
Down 0-2 and being in a deep hole, Cottage Grove had the option to lay down and take a beating or rise to the occasion and put up a fight. The third set showed the the Lions were ready to roar back to relevancy in this one. More or less replicating Siuslaw’s second set win, Cottage Grove seized momentum that carried them to a 13-4 lead midway through the set. The Lions didn’t get much resistance from Siuslaw, as they cruised to a 25-14 third set victory and cut their match deficit to 2-1.
Siuslaw entered the fourth set and grabbed a 4-1 lead to open. The Lions chipped away at the early deficit, eventually taking an 8-7 lead in the fourth set. Cottage Grove seized on Siuslaw’s inconsistency and blew open a 16-9 lead, but the Vikings got some momentum late in the set to push it to a 22-21 game. After calling timeout, Cottage Grove closed them out 25-21 to send it to a fifth set duel between the Sky Em’s two best teams this season. The Lions took a 4-1 lead in the final set, Siuslaw drove back in to deficits of 6-5 and 9-8, but Cottage Grove would ultimately close them out 15-10 to complete the comeback 3-2 over the Vikings in Florence.
Cottage Grove: HUGE Win for the Lions! In this matchup, it was the experienced team that mounted a comeback and ultimately took the dub. Whether their 0-2 hole was from their unfamiliarity with Siuslaw or another reason, its something that they’ll need to talk out and identify. With that said, their talent is undeniable and chemistry is clear when you watch them on the floor. Gracie Arnold and Izabell Senters put on strong performances, finding weaknesses in the Siuslaw defense and executing them very well. Dazjah Tinsley emerged as a third threat to their arsenal, making some nice plays and giving a break to Senters and Arnold. Peyton Kidd is a strong setter, and the Lions have a strong team defensively that can compete with the best in 4A if they can put together a full game performance.
Siuslaw: They started great but ultimately faltered down the stretch, showing much room for improvement to coincide with their talented, youthful front. Hailee Outlaw, Desiree Tupua, Mylee Blake, and Rhianna Lane are just some of the threats that this team can use, with all four of them returning next season. Their libero Hayden Muller is a great defensive compliment, and Zoe Alberty is a quality setter for the Vikings. The ceiling is huge for Siuslaw, but they need to not panic when the game seems to be slipping away, which is what happened on Tuesday. Cleaning up their game and working on the mental aspect will aid them down the stretch of the season, along with the future as they continue to grow as a team.