The Good the Bad and the Gorgeous

The Lady Outlaws volleyball team went up against Cove on Thursday night, and though they lost, 3-1, the event proved that our coaches know their business. After identifying their weak points at the pool play in Heppner, the Lady Outlaws buckled down for some serious practice on serve and receive and it really showed. The 20-minute practice before the game was electrifying.

They came out crackling with energy and blazed the Cove Leopards (ranked No. 19) in the first set, 25-18. That smart and energetic play began to flag in the second set, 25-17, although Darby Gassett (#9) consistently showed the accuracy and power that made her the MVP of this game.

However, it was apparent in that second set that at least two of Enterprise’s top players had already used up the gas in the tank. Several girls looked and moved as if they were exhausted, slapped weak serves into the net, and came late to the party in returns.

These girls are usually strong players and were clearly having an off day. A reminder that high school team members have full lives outside of high school sports and the pressure of school, home, agricultural duties, and college ambitions can take a toll.

A source of errors, not related to energy level, included yielding to the seduction of the tip. Anyone who has played volleyball understands that seduction. The ball is coming shallow and tipping it gently over the net, rather than setting it up, will skim it down the opponent’s side of the net — a lucky event that often takes the opposing team by surprise.

Cove used the tip to excellent effect, finding the empty space in Enterprise defense several times. Our Outlaws, in comparison, frequently tipped the ball over the net right into a nest of defenders. It was a clever move, but not a smart one.

Cove took the third set, 25-18, but barely squeaked a win in the fourth set when the score went 25-23. Enterprise came back too late and slipped to a 43 ranking.

The good news is: the Lady Outlaws showed both improvement and promise. They are clearly coachable and coaches Gill and Stangel are dialed in and developing the team week by week. On a day when all team members are firing on all cylinders, we’re looking at a competitive team that is a ton of fun to watch.

The proof in the pudding came on Saturday, when the Outlaws went up against Wallowa.

Yes, they beat Wallowa in the pool play, and the Cougars are still finding their rhythm of play, but let’s not sell anyone short. The Cougars are a feisty team.

Enterprise won 25-10, 25-9, and 25-18.

Gill gave more players time on the court and the warm-up beforehand showed that she had zeroed in on the source of the errors. The Outlaws were firing on all cylinders and it showed.

Andrea Butterfield was out with an injury, so Gill had sophomore Reece Christman swing varsity and play in the middle spot, where she did an excellent job and recorded three kills.

One of the more notable improvements was in communication. Cove had demonstrated remarkable communication skills on Thursday and the Enterprise girls took notice and brought their own communication up a notch.

Standout players included Jacklyn Jenson (#7) who led with a whopping 23 serves and was top in aces besides. Darby Gassett (#9) reprised the killer serve that stunned Cove and in one set against the Cougars served 14 times in a row.

“The team as a whole served extremely well with only three serving errors, of which two were from us trying jump serving for the whole match,” Gill said.

Riley Gray and Tiffany George were also notable.

“Tiffany had a great game and seven kills,” said Gill. “And Riley’s confidence level is becoming stronger. When she’s got confidence she plays better. When she matures she’s going to be awesome.” Gray had three kills and a block — and dozens of smart assists.

“The team as a whole left everything on the court,” Gill said. “They played hard, had very few errors and flowed together as a team.”

They were so good it was hard to pick, but Jacklyn Jenson gets the MVP for this game.

A shout-out must also go to the JV team, romping over both Cove JV and Wallowa JV with energy and spirit. Those girls are on fire.

“Our JV team is always like this,” said Gill with a laugh. “We talk about this all the time. When they come up to varsity, it gets tougher; the games count at league and there’s more pressure.”

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