The Taft 7-12 volleyball team’s season of resurgence is not over yet.
The Lady Tigers are continuing on past the regular season and will compete for a ticket to the state tournament this weekend.
This week the Tigers closed out the regular season on senior night with a home matchup with Willamina Oct. 22. Although the game ended in similar fashion to the first time these two teams met, a 3-0 sweep in favor of the Bulldogs, head coach Kelsey Hart said their were some positives to take from Tuesday’s loss.
“While a win would have been awesome, the goal was just to improve how we played against them,” Hart said. “We did much better handling some of their big hits. We still need to work on that, but we handled them much better than last time.”
Taft went toe-to-toe with Willamina in the first two sets, losing 25-19 in the first and 25-21 in the second. However, in the third and final set, Willamina took control and won 25-7. Throughout the evening, Taft held several leads over the Bulldogs, thanks to stellar serving from sophomore Lily Hatton, powerful hits by junior Makena Cole and timely digs by sophomore Natalie Ramirez. The stellar play at teams gives Taft hope in a potential playoff rematch against Willamina.
“Our blockers and diggers have to stop their hitters, plain and simple,” Hart said of a potential rematch. “And then our hitters need to put balls away. We can't give them easy balls, because they will slam them back at us.”
But in order to get another shot at the Bulldogs, Taft will first have to defeat a familiar foe in Rainier this Saturday. After beating the Columbians twice already this year, Hart said the gameplan is simply to go in strong and play smart.
“I've had hitters working on controlled shots, servers working on specific placements, etc.,” Hart said. “If we can minimize the errors on our side, I think we have a great chance to come out ahead.”
The contest will be played at Willamina High School on Oct. 26 at 1 p.m. The winner will face the Bulldogs immediately after for an automatic bid into the state tournament.
“It's not ideal, as the girls will be more tired than usual if we make it to the Willamina match,” Hart said. But, it could also serve as an extended warm up. We'll have to get there to find out!”
Regardless of the outcome this weekend, the success the Lady Tigers have found on the court will serve as a building block for the future of the volleyball program. With six wins this season already, it’s as many as the Taft volleyball team has won in the last four years combined.
“This season has absolutely been the best kind of building year,” Hart said. “We have a crazy young team that's only going to get better the longer they play together. We're definitely in a great position to continue our upward trend of improvement.”