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Unionís Vicki MCabe goes up for a tip during the conference tournament Saturday. (Casey Kellas/The Observer)
UNION — The Union volleyball team finished in second place at the Blue Mountain Conference district tournament Saturday, assuring itself of a state playoff game.
The Lady Cats defeated Heppner in a wild five-game victory before falling to Weston-McEwen 27-25, 25-19, 25-23 in the district championship.
“I’m very pleased,” Union head coach Mendy Clark said. “Losing in three to a team like that, because the point margin is so small, you know we played with them. We just didn’t get to 25 first. But I’m so, so happy.”
The Lady Cats hung with Weston-McEwen in an opening set that saw 10 ties, the last coming at 25-all. But the TigerScots were able to snag the last two points to take the set.
Union fell behind 9-1 early in the second set and never recovered, getting as close as 23-19 before losing.
The third set was close early on before Weston-McEwen pulled away to take a 20-15 lead. Union got within three points at 22-19 but didn’t have enough firepower to overtake the state’s top team.
“We worked so hard on some new strategies all week long knowing we were going to get to this game,” Clark said. “Knowing what we needed to do to slow down their top hitter. And it worked, we just weren’t able to both slow (Molly Von Bortel) down and defend the backside.”
Union 3, Heppner 2
In the tournament’s opening match, the Lady Cats took on third-seeded Heppner in a match that was as close as it could be.
In the end, Union pulled out a 25-20, 24-26, 25-20, v19-25, 16-14 victory.
“Once we started playing, I knew all week long we were going to win that match,” Clark said. “But I really didn’t think it would go five. I wasn’t nervous. Because when we played them in league and went five games, we didn’t get outplayed.”
Clark said the key to Union’s success of late has been how the team has played as a whole.
“We aren’t keeping stats anymore, because really it’s about how we play together,” she said.
The Lady Cats will now have to wait to see who they play in the first round of the playoffs. Clark said it might not be until Wednesday before she knows. She did say she expects Union to have to travel for that game.
Grant Union defeated Heppner 18-25, 25-20, 25-21, 25-22 in the third-place game to qualify for the playoffs. The Prospectors defeated Enterprise 25-13, 26-28, 25-16, 25-19 to reach the third-place game.