Molalla had twice defeated Tillamook during the regular season.
But the postseason proved to be a different animal.
The Indians lost 3-1 last Tuesday at Tillamook in a Class 4A play-in game.
The Cheesemakers won the first two games 25-15, 25-14 to take control of the match.
"There's no tomorrow in the postseason, so you have to come ready to play, and those first two games, which were pretty evident by the scores, we just weren't ready," Molalla coach Lauree Nelzen said. "Some of that was it's been a really long time since Molalla has been there. You can prepare kids, but really until they get there and get that experience, it's kind of hard to explain.
"We had a hard time just wrapping our minds around what we needed to do. We had talked about it and talked about it, but until you are really in that moment with kids who have not been there, there was definitely some deer in the headlights. I think it was just really that mental part. I had kids that are my top passers, who couldn't pass the ball, which has not happened all year."
Tillamook had gone on deep playoff runs the past four seasons, finishing sixth at the Class 4A state tournament last year and fifth in 2017.
"Kudos to Tillamook, they came out ready and they've been to the postseason the last few years and have been successful," Nelzen said. "They have a couple of girls who have been part of that. They came out firing on all cylinders."
Molalla won the third game 25-23 to continue the match and avoid the sweep. But Tillamook finished off the Indians 25-20 in the fourth.
"Once we finally settled in and took a deep breath, the passing got better and just the energy got better in those third and fourth games," Nelzen said. "Everyone just seemed more engaged. We seemed a little bit detached from what was going on in those first couple of games and then I think reality hit and we stepped up."
Sydney Thompson had eight kills, three aces and 10 digs against Tillamook. Paula Romero had six kills, two aces and 10 digs.
The Indians had not been part of the postseason in nearly 20 years, so the experience of reaching the play-in game will be valuable for future teams.
"It was rough for the seniors obviously, but coming back next year I have seven or eight kids that have had that experience now, and going into next season that's a huge plus for us," Nelzen said.
Molalla also doubled its win total from last season and defeated league rival Estacada for the first time in five years.
"The seniors have really built this program, especially Jazmin (Spinney), who has been with us for four years. They've worked really hard to get there, and they have raised the bar very high for those that are coming back. That's awesome for our program. I would hate to have our whole season defined by that one match. There were so many successes. There were so many positives. It was a really, really successful season."
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