Sept. 21, 2021 – The Siuslaw Viking volleyball team traveled to Sisters on Sept. 18 and battled teams from all over the state. They left as champions of the Silver bracket and with heaps of momentum heading into the Sky-Em League season.
After going 1-1-1 in pool play, the Vikings missed qualifying for the top, or “Gold” bracket by just one point. They shook off any disappointment they may have felt and won four out of five sets to take the Silver bracket championship.
The tournament began with pool play. Each team would play two sets against three different teams. Top four teams would go to the Gold bracket. The next four would go to Silver.
Game 1 — SHS ties Cottage Grove 25-18, 17-25
Siuslaw drew a familiar foe for the first game with Sky-Em League foe Cottage Grove. The Vikings won the first and the Lions the second. Junior Desi Tupua had 10 kills and freshman Rhianna Lane had 3 blocks for the blue and gold.
“I thought our team did a great job against a team who really moves the ball around well,'' said Siuslaw Coach Kari Blake. “Our girls played a really smart game, and we can't wait to meet up with them again in league play.”
Game 2 — SHS loses to Sisters 13-25, 17-25
The home team proved a challenge for the Vikings, but, according to Coach Blake, that advantage may have been more mental than anything. Sisters is currently the #1 ranked team in 4A.
Blake said, “We know Sisters always has a great team and I think the girls let that psych them out a bit. Overall, we didn't play as strong as I hoped we would, but we still had some really intense rallies, and we had a lot of great movement from our back row.”
Tupua equaled Game 1’s total with 10 kills and freshman Mylee Blake was next with 7.
Game 3 — SHS defeats Madras 25-17, 25-4
The third game started out slow for the Viks until senior Zoe Alberty took over serving in the second set and Siuslaw ripped off 14 straight points, including 6 points from Alberty aces. Mylee also had another nine kills.
Pool play finished with Cottage Grove and Siuslaw both 1-1-1 along with both teams winning one set when they met in Game 1. This meant it would come down to points and the Lions beat the Vikings by one more point than the Viks did them. This meant Cottage Grove would go to Gold and Siuslaw to Silver.
“Missing the Gold bracket by a single point really put it into perspective for us on how important every single point is,” said Blake. “They were definitely on a quest for a first-place Silver finish.”
Semifinal — SHS defeats Marist 25-23, 25-22
In the semifinal game, Siuslaw drew another Sky-Em League rival — in fact, the team they would play just three days later, Marist of Eugene. Once again, Tupua gave the other team trouble as she racked up 10 kills and 3 blocks to go with solid defensive play. Mylee had 9 kills and junior Hailee Outlaw had 7.
“Hayden Muller, always an asset as our libero, did a great job on her communication and anticipating the attacks from the other side,” said Blake.
Silver Championship Game - SHS defeats Vale 25-16, 20-25, 15-9
In a battle of two teams called the Vikings, Siuslaw came out on top.
Coach Blake described the Silver final as “intense.”
Tupua had 15 kills and 3 blocks. Outlaw had 8 kills and Muller 16 digs to star for Siuslaw. Junior Alizabeth Norton had a strong game in the front row.
Blake raved about the play of Outlaw.
“Hailee connected on almost everything she was set, and she put the ball down hard on a number of occasions,” she said. “It really gets the team pumped up when we have a beautiful pass, a perfect set and a hard kill to earn the point. The girls on the bench were coming out of their seats for Hailee after a nice kill.”
She said things are also really clicking for Muller.
“Hayden, our libero, killed it in the back row. She was all over the place, diving, rolling and digging up balls from some really great hitters. Hayden has been working hard on reading the court and it's really starting to come together for her,” said Blake.
Tupua was, well, Tupua-like.
“When the team starts to get down, they often look to Desi to make something happen to get them back on track,” said Blake. “She's probably our most dependable player on the court. I was proud of all of the girls on Saturday.”
All in all, it was a great lead up to league play starting in three days.
Blake said, “I was proud of all of the girls on Saturday. Each and every one of them contributed in their own positive way and we played a lot of good, smart ball.”
The Viking coach sees the Sky-Em League as potentially a battle of three teams: Cottage Grove, Junction City and Siuslaw.
“I think we have the potential to end up on top as long as we continue to improve, play our game and be willing to give it our all,” said Blake.
Like every high school sport, there’s the specter of COVID-19 hanging over the season, but Blake knows the entire Sky-Em League faces a similar situation.
“I know there are teams that are playing now that are down some of their players due to COVID exposure,” said Blake. “It may come down to who has a full roster when we meet up with Junction City or Cottage Grove. I know they have some really great coaches, and each team will be working hard towards that league championship.”