The Lady Cougars recaptured some magic.
On the brink of another humbling loss Oct. 17 in Wallowa High School's gym, the volleyball team took three consecutive games and stunned Pine Eagle by winning the match. It was the Cougars' second nerve-wracking test in 24 hours. The previous day, Wallowa's homecoming, the Cougars - once winless rollovers at the bottom of Old Oregon standings - challenged second-place Powder Valley to five games and fell just two points short of an upset.
"We've worked on being more excited," sophomore Skylar Waters said. "Now, we come to the middle of the court and encourage each other. We've didn't always do that before."
Wallowa climbed up to sole possession of fifth place in the league, with their record now at 2-6. Senior Meagan McKenzie, junior McKenzie Shelton and junior Kuulei Delatori each scored seven kills against the Pine Eagle High Spartans. Senior Anna Chrisman had six kills. Delatori also served four aces, while Meagan McKenzie had two, Shelton one and Waters one.
The girls survived a nightmarish month and came away stronger than ever. Long before the season, coach Terri Wilson took them to a summer camp in Seaside. All week, speakers preached team unity. But after winning a Sept. 19 tournament in Joseph, they fell into a bitter slump and lost five straight matches against league rivals.
However, the Cougars suddenly transformed into a much more competitive team. Their victory Oct. 10 at Joseph was the turning point. A week later, the day of homecoming, they nearly topped the Powder Valley Badgers but dropped a nailbiting fifth game.
Given another opportunity the following day, Wallowa girls stayed together. They had to overcome the danger of an early demise, as Pine Eagle quickly claimed two wins, 25-20 and 25-15. But McKenzie Shelton's hit finished the third game in the Cougars' favor, 25-17. Game 4 was a thrilling battle that carried into extra serves. It ended as another Wallowa victory, 27-25, when Chrisman slammed a volley over the Spartans to the opposite back corner.
The final game called on more rallies. Pine Eagle jumped ahead, 4-0. Delatori served a couple of aces. Then, she set up Meagan McKenzie for a kill that knotted the score at 6-6. But the next time Wallowa girls huddled by their bench, they trailed by the score of 12-8.
"Terri called a timeout," Water said, "and told us that we're a great team. She admitted she didn't care whether we win or lose, but that we deserve to win."
Out of the pause, the Cougars tallied four straight points. Goller capped the run with her kill, tying the game at 12-12. Then, Pine Eagle scored for the last time by sneaking a hit inside the back line for a slim lead. After the Cougars drew even, Waters set up Chrisman for another kill. The next volley, Waters fed Meagan McKenzie for the match-winner.
Next, Wallowa will host Cove on Oct. 23, followed by Imbler.