The Cougars have now lost three key seniors to knee injuries and will look to formulate a plan moving forward if they hope to repeat again as state champs

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Country Christian junior Kendall Halverson (left) and senior Mollie Lewandowski prepare to defend a point against Kennedy on Tuesday, Aug. 29.

The Country Christian volleyball team's hopes of repeating for the fourth time as Class 1A state champions, though not completely out of sight, are beginning to look a little bit more bleak as a third Cougar has now gone down with a significant knee injury.

Three of the Cougars essential returning seniors have all suffered knee injuries in recent months: 2016 Class 1A Player of the Year Maddy Weyer tore her MCL during last weekend's tournament at Country Christian High School; First Team All-State winner Meghan McGrath is still rehabilitating her ACL after having reconstructive surgery in March; and All-League Defensive Team MVP Anna Farner tore her ACL a few weeks ago at a summer basketball camp.

And while many teams anticipate injuries occurring, they never expect to see three of their key players out before league play even begins.

"[Losing Weyer] was a pretty big bummer for us," head coach Janin McGrath said. "We believe she came down on another kid's foot since the set was a little tight to the net … I can tell you that she had gone after the set extremely aggressively, but that's how Maddy plays."

Weyer is currently waiting on the results of her MRI to tell her exactly what's going on, but if it is indeed an MCL injury, she could possibly get lucky as MCL can occasionally heal themselves without surgery, and in a fairly short amount of time compared to other knee ligaments.

"We're just waiting to see what the treatment plan will be an potentially see if we can get her back, obviously that'd be great for us since she's a huge piece of what we do, so I'm a little sad," McGrath said.

The Cougars also lost Farner a few weeks ago, who has been a key component of the Cougars' defensive scheme. She underwent ACL reconstructive surgery on Monday, Aug. 28, and McGrath said that despite its success, she is out for the season.

"I'll tell you though, if she follows in Meghan [McGrath]'s footsteps, she'll be back as early as she possibly can," McGrath said about Farner's return for basketball season.

Also on Monday, Meghan McGrath was approved to begin her return to play process, which is anticipated to take a few weeks. The best news for the Cougars, though, is that Meghan won't have any restrictions when she's fully released to play; McGrath was worried she might have to move Meghan to the back row or somewhere else in order to protect her knee, but Meghan will just have to wear a knee brace without any other play restrictions.

Preseason update

While the Cougars had no trouble running through all nine teams they faced during their home tournament last weekend, they did face off against a formidable opponent in Class 2A Kennedy on Tuesday night.

It was the Cougars' first match without their main setter in Weyer, and McGrath said if they would've had Meghan, Anna, and Maddy, it would be been a "knock-down, drag-out great match."

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS - Country Christian head coach Janin McGrath

"I feel like we were a tad bit outmatched, but also the fact that it's our very first game without Maddy in the rotation … you lose your setter, that can be your glue sometimes," she said. "But I thought the girls really came out and did everything that was asked of them to make it work and see what we've got."

And while she would've rather grabbed the win, McGrath said she's thankful that it was a strong team like Kennedy that showed them what they need to work on.

"To have a team like Kennedy show me that is way better than having a game where we win by a lot and I'm not really able to see where our issues are … so seeing our issues without Maddy helps me develop our practice plan," McGrath said.

McGrath also said she's grateful for the timing of it all, since they get a week off before their next game at Reedsport on Sept. 7; they now have some time to get in some practices and develop a strategy moving forward.

"The good part is I've got the personnel, the kids' attitudes are fantastic, they're ready to dig in and I've got kids ready to step up, even though they're going to have to step up a little earlier than originally planned, but I'm excited because, yes, it's going to make us have to do a few things a little differently, but I'm excited to work that stuff out now, and if we get to later in the season and Maddy is able to return, that's just the cherry on top for what we've been working on," McGrath said.

Conner Williams
Sports Reporter/News Contributor
503-829-2301 ext. 341
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