Canby volleyball started this season in rebuilding mode after graduating several key pieces of its remarkable 2019 squad, which finished third in the state, including Ruby Kayser, Arika Evans, Caitlin Gay and two-time Three Rivers League Player of the Year Daley McClellan.
After starting out 1-5, the young and inexperienced Cougars dropped two straight matches without winning a set. In a word, the season had been off to a rough start.
But you would never know the struggles this Cougar squad had shown if you watched them at the Canby Tournament on Saturday. After rallying to win against Barlow, a reinvigorated Canby team marched confidently past Wells (Formerly Wilson High) and finished second overall in the tournament.
“We know we’re not going to overpower teams,” said Canby volleyball head coach T.J. Schlatter, “but we can play smarter and more aggressive and more scrappy than other teams.”
The Canby tournament consisted of three games, all sandwiched in a 12-hour frame. Because of tournament rules, games are reduced to a best two-out-of-three sets instead of the usual best three-out-of-five.
This change was crucial for the Cougars against Barlow. The Bruins eked out a first set win, 27-25, to put Canby against ropes. But from there, Canby roared back to take the second set 25-17 and won outright with a 15-13 third set win.
The Cougars, who had struggled losing close sets last week against Tualatin, used the momentum to push themselves past Wells.
“I think [that first set] gave the girls the confidence that they could play with them,” Schlatter said. “And they took the energy they had and rolled it right into the next two sets.”
For the tournament, Canby switched offensive styles from a 6-2 to a 5-1. Junior Natalie Just became the sole setter on the Cougar attack, and senior Atalie Leder switched to outside hitter. The moves seemed to be just what the doctor ordered.
Against Wells, Canby once again emerged victorious, sweeping the Guardians, 25-19, 25-21. In the game, junior middle blocker Chloe Annas recorded several timely kills for the Cougar offense.
Annas has been blooming over the last few games and impressed in Canby’s win over Tigard. Now, she has Schlatter’s confidence as the primary offensive weapon for the Cougar offense.
After recording their first two-game winning streak of the season, Canby fell in the tournament championship to Newberg, losing in straight sets. Despite excellent defensive play from senior Gabrielle Gray, the Cougars dropped the first set 15-25, and the second set, 20-25.
While they may not have exited the tournament as champions, the Canby girls proved themselves on Saturday and found their team identity after weeks of searching.
“We were very scrappy and did a great job playing aggressive,” said a proud Schlatter. “It was a great day to be a Cougar!”
With their success in the tournament, the girls improve to 3-7 overall (1-3 in league play). Canby stays in their gym for their fourth and fifth consecutive home games, taking on St. Mary’s Tuesday and facing Oregon City on Thursday. Both games start at 6:30 p.m.
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