It was a remarkable comeback story at Canby High School Wednesday night — in far more ways than one — as the Cougars (1-0) dug their way out from a 2-0 deficit to defeat visiting Tualatin (0-1) five sets in their season opener.
“It was a rough start, trying to figure things out,” head coach Terri Jo Schlatter said afterward. “But it was really cool to see them smooth out and start fighting together!”
Of course, the narrative Wednesday was much bigger than a single volleyball match, or even the extra weight of a season home opener against a conference rival.
This was the opener to the season that was six months late — and almost 12 months in the making. This was the opener to the season that may have never been.
This was historic, and the real match-up was not between Cougars and Timberwolves, but between a once-in-a-generation pandemic and a coalition of student-athletes, parents, coaches, administrators and fans — all of them saying sports matter and can be done safely.
It did not look the same, by any stretch. The bleachers were virtually empty. Everyone wore a mask. The huddles were socially distanced and broken — not in the traditional way — but by players clapping their own hands together.
Attendees had to digitally sign in with their name, phone number and emergency contact info, as well as verify that they were not experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 and had not come into contact with anyone who had contracted the virus.
And yet, no one really seemed to mind. For the Cougs, the night was perfect — and not just because they escaped with the still-unblemished record.
“It was awesome!” Schlatter said. “The girls were so excited to play, and I think a little nervous. That was the first outing on varsity for over half of them, and the first time playing together as a group. It took a while to get a rhythm together and start to communicate and trust each other.”
The Canby boys’ soccer team (0-1) also kicked off its season at Cougar Stadium Wednesday in a difficult non-league matchup with visiting Gresham (1-0).
The result was different, though, as the Cougars under second-year head coach Ryan McCormack fell against a tough Gopher squad, the core of which has played together for the past four years.
The Cougs’ next game will be on the road in a non-league catfight vs. the undefeated Tigers of Newberg (1-0).
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