Viks poised for potential play-off bid

“If we finish 5-5 or 6-4, we’d probably make it. If we’re 4-6, then we’re playing the racing game, which gets dicey”

Cottage Grove d Siuslaw

23-25, 16-25, 25-18, 20-25

Siuslaw d Marist

25-18, 25-23, 25-14

Oct. 12, 2019 — It was another 50/50 week for the Siuslaw volleyball team this week, though this time the team is on the upswing with a change to how they play the floor — and an eye on making the playoffs. But to make that, they have to face off against one of their toughest opponents of the season in Junction City.

The Viks have had their ups and downs recently, “but we knew the league would be tough, so that was no surprise,” said coach Jon Hornung said. “The teams we’ve played have been good.”

That theory was proven last week when they played Junction City, losing three sets without ever breaking the 20-point barrier.

“They beat us handily,” Hornung said. “They’re by far the best team we’ve played this year, and having matches like that can be demoralizing for the girls — but this group tends to thrive on that.”

The loss wasn’t a surprise, given the Tigers’ undefeated record of seven consecutive wins. So instead of getting discouraged, the Viks worked on pushing up their game.

On Saturday, they competed two rounds in a tournament that did not count toward their league rankings, using the day as a chance to rework a few things.

“If we lose this, who cares, just keep going and work at it,” Hornung said of the team’s mindset at the tourney.

The Viks worked on rotations and modified what they had been doing up to that point. One of the biggest changes was allowing for a second setter. Originally, it was just Zoe Alberty, but “in these five-set matches that take two-and-a-half hours, it’s a lot of stress and pressure,” Hornung said. “You have to perform every single point. Every time the ball is on our side of the net, you got to set the ball.”

So, they gave Alberty a partner in crime with Hailee Outlaw.

“Now Hailey can set half the time and Zoe set the other half. That change, coupled with the fact that we had four matches to really work at it, I think was really positive and a really big stepping stone for the girls.”

During the tournament, Siuslaw defeated Madras, but lost again to Junction City.

“However, the experience we gained was worth it to go, even if it meant we lost another match,” Hornung said.

When they faced Cottage Grove last Tuesday night in league play, they felt more sure-footed after being able to experiment a bit.

“It was a battle because Cottage Grove is a solid team, but we took them to four sets this time,” Hornung said. While they eventually lost the match, it was nowhere near the blowout of Junction City, with three of the four sets played Tuesday night a back-and-forth battle with close final scores.

“It was super positive,” Hornung said. “We played really well and didn’t give up a lot of points.”

Mia Collins had 15 kills that night, followed by Desi Tupua with 9 and Kya Blake with 7. Hayden Muller had 13 digs while Zoe Alberty had five.

“We were spreading around the ball a lot and the girls were getting a lot of kills,” said Hornung. “Obviously Cottage Grove beat us. They played harder and they executed at the point when we could have used a couple of kills and changed the match. But ultimately, we played well,” said Hornung.

Then came Thursday night, an away game at Marist, where we they beat the Spartans handily, sweeping them in three sets.

Collins led in kills with 15, followed by Hurley with 7 and Blake with 6. Lindsay Long had a whopping 19 digs, followed by Muller with 14.

Even with the win, the Viks are still ranked 18th, after Marist, with a 3-4 record and on the cusp of reaching the playoffs.

But it’s not going to be easy.

“If we finish 5-5 or 6-4, we’d probably make it. If we’re 4-6, then we’re playing the racing game, which gets dicey,” Hornung said.

The top 20 teams make the playoffs, but when you’re ranked 18, the ground can shift quickly. One loss from the Viks and another win from a team like Cottage Grove could knock Siuslaw out.

“We don’t want to be in that situation where we’re hoping teams will win and hoping teams will lose,” Hornung said. “I was telling the girls, ‘You control your own destiny. If you win the next three matches, you’re in. If you don’t, then you’re leaving it up to chance and the other teams to lose. That’s not where we want to be.’”

They have three games left, the first of which is Marshfield, holding a 3-4 record. The game will be at home where “we always step up,” Hornung said. “That will be the bell-weather to see how the season is going. If we can beat Marshfield, that kind of bodes well for making it to playoffs and continuing on.”

After that is an away game at Elmira, who has yet to win a league game with a 0-7 record — then, a non-league tournament next Saturday.

After that, it’s the final game of the season, and it won’t be an easy match: Junction City.

“It will be senior night,” Hornung said, pointing out that the Viks will be defending home turf. “Traditionally, we’ve played hard on senior night. If we come down and win the next two and we’re staring down Junction City, it would be an awesome confidence boost. Hopefully we’re in the playoff picture.”

Hornung thinks they have a shot against Junction City. The Viks will be amped up and ready to go.

“With these girls, as long as they play together and build each other up, and don’t blame themselves too much, we should be alright,” Hornung said, stating the team is positive about their chances.

“The girls have definitely been stepping up and practicing games, and they’re playing better together as a team,” he said. “Regardless of who we play, we always have a shot to win. Any team we play against, we can match up against them defensive wise. As long as our offense plays well and smart, I think we can beat anyone.”


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