By Rongi Yost
Correspondent 

Outlaws swing into preseason

 

Last updated 9/6/2022 at Noon

JERRY BALDOCK

Gracie Vohs makes a kill in the Outlaws’ battle against Burns.

The Lady Outlaws started their week at Crook County on Tuesday, August 30, with a tri-match against the Crook County Cowgirls and Caldera. Sisters easily beat Caldera in three straight sets, and then battled hard to earn the win over the Cowgirls. At home two days later, the Outlaws defeated Cascade Christian in three straight sets, and went on to defeat Burns, the defending 3A champions, in four sets.

In Tuesday’s first match against Caldera, Sisters’ intimidating front line was at the top of their game from the get-go and sparked the Outlaws to an early lead. They dominated play against the 5A team, which struggled to hit through the Outlaws’ blocks. Middle blocker Molly Meyer led the team with three great blocks, and outside hitter Gracelyn Myhre led the team with eight kills. Sisters grabbed early leads in all three sets and never looked back. They took the match with scores of 25-17, 25-14, and 25-16.

The Outlaws went on to outlast a gritty Crook County squad in a four-set victory led by timely hits from outside hitter Gracie Vohs, who finished with 24 kills. Sisters also executed strong defense, led by libero Mia Monaghan, who recorded 22 digs.

Sisters took the first set with a score of 25-16, but the Cowgirls battled back, and the Outlaws lost a hard-fought second set 23-25. Sisters bounced back in the third set with great passes from the back row. Girls dove all over the floor in a fine defensive effort, and they came out on top 25-16.

In the fourth set the Outlaws committed 17 unforced errors. With Sisters down 13-20, Coach Rory Rush called a timeout and urged her team to “take a deep breath and calm down.”

Rush told them, “We know who we are as a team and right now we’re frazzled and losing focus. We need to play together, clean up our passes, and execute a crisper offense.”

Rush added, “We came out of the timeout with a set play to run a stunt to get our outside hitter Gracie to run in the middle instead. It was a quick strike and was executed perfectly.”

After that point, the Outlaws remained focused, went on a 12-2 run, and secured the win.

Sisters continued their tough preseason schedule two days later with a three-way match in Sisters against 3A State qualifier Cascade Christian, and defending 3A state champion Burns.

Stellar defense was key in the Outlaws’ quick lead against Cascade Christian. The Lady Challengers couldn’t adjust to the defense they faced. Every hit the Challengers put over the net was met with a great dig from the Outlaws, followed by a quality pass that led to a quick-strike offense. Sisters took early leads in each set, dominated play, and won with scores of 25-14, 25-9, and 25-15.

Sisters faced their toughest test of the year with a battle against the Lady Highlanders. The defending champs hit the court with confidence, and planned to show the Outlaws they were still the team to beat.

Burns came out swinging with strategic hits and strong blocks along the front line. The Outlaws struggled to adjust early in the first set, and the Hilanders went on a run.

Rush said, “We’d seen them play last weekend, and we were set up on defense expecting them to hit hard. We set up our defense with a heavy block and our defense back. They tipped over our blocks in the first set.

“Being able to cover the tip effectively requires seeing the floor and quick reflexes,” added Rush. “We struggled to find their hitters quickly enough and read what was happening. So, we got caught not being able to pick up the tips and off-speed balls. We needed to regroup after that first set. Once we did that we were competing at a high level.”

The Outlaws were a different squad in the second set. Rush noted that the team looked focused, and prepared to compete. Their poise and scrappiness brought them a 25-22 second-set win.

Burns didn’t fold, and used two big runs in the third set to beat the Outlaws 25-17. The Outlaws entered a must-win, pivotal fourth set. Every run the Hilanders went on the Outlaws matched. Both teams made big plays all over the court, but the Outlaws prevailed 25-20.

Teams entered to the winner-take-all final set, and Sisters began with a quick 5-0 lead behind the serving of setter Hannah Fendall. Burns called a quick time-out, but Sisters continued to put on the pressure. The Hilanders dug in and went on a 5-0 run to get right back in the game. The score continued back and forth and fans could feel the tension in the gym.

Burns began an onslaught of attacks, but Sisters met every hit with some stellar defensive passes. When the final ball hit the floor, Sisters was on the winning side of an epic preseason game in a final score of 18-16.

Rush said, “Tonight we played an extremely well-coached and gritty Burns team. They are a top team at 3A and they showed it tonight. Tonight was a measuring stick for us. I am proud of our girls, and I am excited to continue to grow with this group of girls. We have a lot of growth ahead of us, but I am excited about the heart of this team!”

The Outlaws were to begin their Mountain Valley opener at Elmira on Tuesday, September 6. They will head to a 4A tournament at Cascade on Saturday, September 10.

 

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