'Mental toughness' leads Canby volleyball to best state finish in school history
HILLSBORO — Senior Ruby Kayser said she had a good feeling in the days leading up to Canby's first trip to the state volleyball tournament in 10 years.
And her confidence did not waver Friday morning after the Cougars lost their first set 25-21 to No. 3 Mountainside and then fell behind 17-0 in the second.
Sticking together, Canby rallied to win three straight sets 25-16, 25-18 and 15-12 to defeat Mountainside 3-2 and advance to the semifinals.
"That's just our team," Kayser said. "Even though we just got our butts kicked, we're not going to lose the match. We never give up. I've never been on a team where you can be down 0-17 and come back to win a match. Mentally, that's almost impossible and just shows the mental toughness that we have."
Canby juniors Daley McClellan and Caitlyn Gay also spoke of the Cougars mental toughness.
"We just don't break down easily," McClellan said. "If we lost the first set, that doesn't affect how we play the next set. We're really mentally tough."
"A lot of these teams crack against us because they know what we're capable of and they're afraid of us, which is weird because there are all these teams that are full of club players," Gay said.
The Cougars also played in front of a raucous standing-room only crowd at Liberty High School.
"I think it helped a lot by having so many people from our community there," Kayser said. "We have so many people behind our back and everybody is rooting us on. I was trying to keep it cool for my team because if I start freaking out, than other people are going to really freak out. I felt like their was water in my ears. I had a migraine after that game because of the noise."
"It was such an overwhelming atmosphere," McClellan added. "We had our whole community here. That just really pushed us over the edge and gave us motivation to play as hard as we could."
Facing No. 2 Central Catholic Friday night, Canby jumped out to a 2-1 lead before the Rams rallied to win the fourth set 25-15 and the fifth 15-9.
"They're a very offensive team and we don't have that big of a block," Kayser said. "We were serving tough, but if they get a good pass, it's pretty much over for us. We'll get some good digs and keep a rally going, but we just don't have the firepower in the front row. We don't have the blocking. And the fact that we can still hang with teams like Central Catholic and Mountainside without that block just shows so much about the grit of our team. It just wasn't enough to finish that game."
Playing for third place Saturday afternoon, the Cougars swept Three Rivers League rival West Linn 3-0 (26-24, 25-21, 25-20) for the best state finish in the volleyball program's history.
"We just really wanted to finish on a win and on a high note for our team since we've had such a great season," Kayser said. "Third and fifth is a big difference. We all get along really well. As a team we just really wanted to push through and have a good last match."
Canby also entered the match confident after winning 3-2 at West Linn on Oct. 22.
"We respect them a lot because they're a great team, but we know what's coming at us," Kayser said. "We're comfortable because we've played against them before, so there's no surprise factor."
McClellan finished the state tournament with 120 kills and Kayser had 144 total assists in her final three matches at Canby.
"I'm really proud of my team," Kayser said. "That was the best way to end my senior season. I'm really, really happy. I never predicted it, but I'm happy with the result."
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