Leopards season ends in Dufur
A promising season for the Cove Leopards came to an abrupt close Wednesday in Dufur, as the host Rangers chalked up a three-game sweep in 1A state sub-round volleyball playoff action at Dufur High School.
While still with a loaded roster, so much is in question based on the recovery from knee surgery to Hailey Hulse and the recent move to the 2A classification.
Nonetheless, Cove head coach Darcy Carreiro wants her team to visualize all that went right and wrong Wednesday and use it for the betterment of the program down the line.
“I want them to get back to the gym and apply the things we learned tonight,” the Leopard coach said. “We need to know what it takes to play at that caliber and know what it takes to be at the level of play on the court.”
Dufur had the early edge in the opening set, by busting open a 7-5 lead with a 10-6 spurt to move ahead 17-11.
Cove crept closer to within a 19-14 deficit, but the Rangers stopped any thoughts of a comeback with a 6-2 run with kills by Alexa Macias and Taylor Darden, before an ace by Kyla Johnson and a hitting error gave Dufur a 25-16 winner.
Using the momentum from that first game, Taylor Darden went to the service stripe to start Game 2 and rattled home 12 consecutive service points on three aces and three kills from Teneille McDonald to run the count out to 12-0.
Cove got to within 20-8 and used back-to-back kills and a stuffed block by Hailey Hulse to make the score 20-11.
However, with the score 22-13 Dufur in front, McDonald had two kills sandwiched between a kill shot by Taylor Darden to give the team a 2-0 edge after a 25-13 decision.
“Their serving was aggressive. They served the ball strong at our back line, which we were not 100 percent used to,” Carreiro said. “We just weren’t confident under that top spin ball and did not move our feet the way we needed to.”
Needing one more win to move on to the next round, the Rangers fell behind early, but poured it on from the service line again to break open a 10-7 lead.
Taylor Darden contributed nine straight service points from that stage, and capped the rally with three straight aces to pad the Ranger lead up to 19-7.
With the score 19-11 after a Hulse kill, McDonald and Montana Ferres dropped kill shots, and then Macias laced home an ace serve to make the score, 22-11.
Cove battled back from a 23-11 deficit with four straight points, capping the spurt on a kill by Mikayla Murchison and another by Hulse to draw their squad to a 24-15 score.
On the ensuing serve, Taylor Darden received a pass from Macias and fired home the game-clinching kill to end the match at 25-15 for the sweep.
“Dufur hit more in the front of the court instead of the back and that caught us off guard,” said Hailey Hulse, a junior middle blocker. “For some reason, we could not adjust. I don’t know. We just did not have our game tonight. They wanted it a little bit more tonight I guess. That happens.”
For the visiting Leopards, Hailey Hulse had seven kills, two digs and a block, and Hannah Hulse added four kills, two digs, three aces and a block.
Murchison was good for five kills, Alissa Hansen notched two blocks and Hannah Duby checked in with two digs.
Carreiro will look to replace senior Kyla DeLint and Murchison, a former 2010 state champion winning hitter.
The Leopards are bringing back four juniors, two sophomores and a host of freshmen, who will lead the charge in a new regime amongst the 2A ranks in a same league with Grant Union, Burns and a few other schools.
After a 3-5 start to their non-tournament slate, the Leopards went on a roll in the middle of the season with six wins in seven matches, three by sweep to climb back into league contention.
After losing in five games to Wallowa in the Old Oregon League district semifinals, they had to defeat Powder Valley to keep their season alive. They did so with a gritty five-game win over the Lady Badgers.
With tears in her eyes, Hailey Hulse, a junior, who tore knee ligaments in both of her knees, but sacrificed health to play for the team, had a smile on her face when thinking of her mates and the success enjoyed through the year.
“We came a long ways from the beginning of the year,” she said. “Every girl here worked their tails off all season long. I know that there is not a single team that I would rather have been a part of.”
That feeling of 2010 and hoisting a championship trophy still gets the blood pumping for Hulse.
Even with the move up in classification, she knows there is talent on the roster to make a run at it in her last go-around in 2014.
“We are going to come back even stronger next year I know it,” Hulse said. “We will move up to 2A next year, so it will be a challenge. I think we will be ready for it though. We have good players here. We want to win state.”