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Cougars defeated No. 5 Rogue Valley Friday before falling to No. 1 Powder Valley and No. 2 Days Creek

COURTESY PHOTO - Country Christian's volleyball team placed fifth at the Class 1A tournament at Ridgeview High School in Redmond.

Country Christian brought a fifth place trophy home from the Class 1A volleyball tournament in Redmond.

"I'm exactic," Cougars coach Janin McGrath said. "I think this group overachieved. They exceeded their own expectations. We set goals. We would hit that goal. We would set another one, constantly reaching for that next level."

No. 4 Country Christian opened the state tournament by defeating No. 5 Rogue Valley 3-0 (25-15, 25-23, 25-19) in the quarterfinals Friday morning.

"I think we were a bad matchup for Rogue Valley," McGrath said. "We knew if we didn't make a lot of hitting errors that we could be offensive enough for them, that the type of defense they play, we would have a big advantage and that's exactly what happened."

The Cougars had only two hitting errors in the first set.

"It really came down to us passing well so that we could be very offensive and when we were offensive it limited their ability to be offensive back with us," McGrath said. "As a result, they gave us a lot of free balls and we took care of it."

Jera Warrington had 33 assists, five digs and five aces in the victory. Lizzy Grandle had 16 kills and 10 digs.

Playing in the semifinals, Country Christian lost the first two sets to No. 1 Powder Valley 25-17 and 25-11.

"Powder Valley is a really good team," McGrath said. "They have a lot of weapons. They kept our blockers guessing. Powder Valley also serves very well and we struggled to pass. It was kind of a flip of when we played RVA. We had a hard time being offensive and that allowed Powder Valley, especially in game two to be very offensive with us and put us on own heels."

But the Cougars battled back to win the third 25-17 and 25-23 to force a fifth.

"I pulled the girls before game three and said you have nothing to lose right here so you might as well go out swinging and playing as hard as you can, hit the ball hard and let the game play out," McGrath said. "That's what we did. Our passing came underneath us and that allowed our setters to have a versified offense and then the girls just hit the ball very well, which then kind of fired up everything for us, and we got on a roll."

The Cougars also got a boost from their bench, particularly from sophomore Lilley Begley.

"She had four key serves and passed the ball well," McGrath said.

But Powder Valley won the fifth set 15-8 to advance to the finals.

"We had excited mistakes," McGrath said. "We'd been playing so well and so aggressive that we got a couple of net calls. We made a couple of errors and it was just a little bit of youth. We did everything we could to make those last five points for Powder to earn. They had some things fall their way and they were aggressive and went back to hitting hard and were able to get some things set up. We gave them a run though. We battled them better than any 1A team has battled them this year. We made them work hard for it. I was really proud of the girls in how they competed and played. We definitely walked out with our heads held high for sure."

Grandle and McKenzie Syphard each had 13 kills in the semifinals match. Warrington had 27 assists and six digs.

Country Christian then lost to No. 2 Days Creek 3-0 (25-14, 25-17, 25- 23) in the third-place match.

Madison Halverson had 10 kills and Warrington recorded another 20 assists.

"Days Creek is just good," McGrath said. "We knew it. We weren't going into it surprised by anything. We knew Days Creek was going to be a complete uphill battle. They have three really big hitters. They can keep you guessing. They're diversified. They use everybody and they play incredible defense. In game one we struggled just a little bit in getting our passing under us and being offensively.

In games two and three, I feel like we ended the season playing our best volleyball against a team that was just better than us."

The Cougars trailed 22-17 in the third set and were able to score five straight points to even the game.

"It was all kinds of crazy, awesome volleyball," McGrath said. "Six weeks ago we wouldn't have been able to hang. This group has grown so much that it's hard to be disappointed. Even though you ended on a loss, you can't be disappointed in what this group has accomplished this year."

Derek Wiley
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