The Canby Cougars are the best public school volleyball team in the state.
The Cougs proved that at the state tournament in Hillsboro this weekend, defeating West Linn on Saturday to claim third place in 6A volleyball. The two teams ahead of them — Jesuit and Central Catholic, who face off for the state title tonight — are both private schools.
The Cougs came into the playoffs seemingly determined to prove they were better than their seeding of 11th overall. They swept No. 22 Grant in the opening round with progressively widening margins of victory (25-18, 25-13, 25-10), then upset sixth-ranked Sprague in five sets, punching their ticket to their first state tourney in 10 years.
Time to get this game started!!! Our great crowd stepped up when the music failed and led the national anthem!!! Making us proud! 😺🇺🇸 #GoCougars #CanbyProud pic.twitter.com/iaMRS5mFeo
In the quarterfinal, the Cougars would again be the underdogs, as they faced off against No. 3 Mountainside. Their ultimate victory would not be without drama, as the Cougs had to stage a furious comeback after falling behind two sets to none.
But Canby refused to quit, and they rattled off three straight victories in a gymnasium that virtually felt like a home game, with one section of bleachers packed with Cougar fans, and with the Central Catholic faithful joining in as well. Everybody loves an underdog, after all.
community #CanbyProud We’re with you Cougs!! pic.twitter.com/ufFzvLqE35
Fittingly, Central Catholic would be Canby’s semifinals opponent. The Cougs pulled ahead two sets to one, and were even leading for part of the fifth and decisive set, but ultimately fell to the second-ranked Rams.
The Cougars battled hard to the very end, falling only six points short of their first state finals appearance in school history.
In their final game of the season, the girls were evidently tired of five-set matches. They needed only three to dispatch their Three Rivers League rivals.
It was an exclamation point on the Cougs’ season-long demonstration that they belong in the conversation about the top volleyball programs in the state.
3rd place! @canbyathletics pic.twitter.com/aVJ1tW3eHO
“This team has come a long way this season as far as being a TEAM,” head coach T.J. Schlatter wrote afterward. “There are multiple girls playing out of position and many role players, and they all have accepted it for the good of the team’s success.
“They are fighters and have a heart the size of Canby, which has grown from the support of the community and students this season.”
Tune in to Monday’s episode to hear our conversation with Ruby Kayser and Daley McLellan — two key parts of the Cougs’ phenomenal season.
Photo courtesy Canby High School Principal Greg Dinse on Twitter.