By Jeremy McDonald
GERVAIS, Ore.– One thing was for certain. A team was going to snap their long playoff drought Tuesday night at Gervais High School and all it would take would be a win on this evening in the Tri-River Conference League playoffs.
For Santiam, it’s been since 2002 since the last time they got to the bracket. For the Cougars, it’s been since 2007 as both teams met once again with what was at stake.
The Wolverines came out sharper than they did when the two teams met in Mill City back on October 5, going toe-to-toe with Gervais in all three sets of the Cougs 25-19, 27-25, 25-23 win. Holding leads in the final two sets and rallying to make things right in the final set to see if they could steal another set from the home team like that early October meeting.
“I felt like we did a lot better than we did the first time we played them. We talked a lot more and overall we did really well,” Santiam’s Makayla Dodge said.
Gervais had to step up to the challenge in holding off an much improved Wolverine squad, Santiam playing in the second round of the league playoffs for the first time since the 2018 season, to snap their 15 year drought. Responding in ways that could help them Thursday against Culver, in the league championship Saturday if they win Thursday on the road and into the 2A State playoffs next week.
“A lot of this tonight reflects on how we first played them at their place and we lost a set to them. We wanted to beat them in three (tonight), that was what our goal was and that’s what we didm” Lilly McCargar said. “Honestly, it’s just being able to play hard as a team and keep together. Not getting upset or frustrated with everyone and just staying collected like how that second set was, when we’re down and we came back and we beat them in that one set. I think if we play like that, we’ll play so well and we’ll keep going through it.”
McCargar struggled to put into words the feeling of this moment. Playoffs in that it was something that she wanted to as the senior-heavy Gervais squad have now achieved the goal at hand in making it to the postseason.
“This is all I’ve been wanting since freshman year and the fact that we’re actually in it, it feels amazing. No matter what we do after this, it feels so good,” McCargar said.
Santiam, who are currently ranked 17th in 2A, have a slim chance at an at-large bid. But all-in-all their 12-9 season, returning all but seven seniors from this year’s squad and overcoming a slow start to finish strongly, there’s some excitement in what this team could be coming back next Fall.
“We made goals and just making it to the league playoffs was an amazing experience. It was good because last year we were close (to league playoffs), so I felt like we did better this year big time,” described Dodge. “Definitely getting a lot closer together. Next year I feel like we got a big chance in making it to State. We have a good group of girls.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald