After playing against the best last week, the Hood River Valley girls volleyball team played like the best on Saturday, taking third place at the Grant Invitational tournament in Portland.
Perhaps having learned a few lessons from last Thursday's opponent, Barlow, the Eagles looked strong even in defeat. In its only two losses, HRV was able to take both Milwaukie and Dallas to three games before conceding the match.
HRV also achieved some measure of revenge, beating Milwaukie in a three-set thriller for third place honors.
"I was impressed with our comeback versus Milwaukie at the end of the day," coach Tracy Norton said. "The third place game didn't take place until 7:30 p.m., and I was proud of the girls for playing tough that late in the day."
The tournament featured eight teams, and began with two brackets of round-robin play. The Eagles' day started with a match against Newberg, and they coasted to a 15-8, 15-11 win. Next up was host Grant, and HRV prevailed by a score of 15-12, 15-13.
The third match in round-robin play was against a tough Milwaukie club, who rolled to a 15-5 first game win. HRV evened the match with a 15-5 win of its own in game two, but fell short in game three 15-4.
A 2-1 record was enough to give the Eagles second place in their group, and a spot in the semifinals against Dallas. HRV continued to play well, losing a close first game 15-12. But they bouncedback to take the second game 15-13 before Dallas regained the momentum and rallied to win game three 15-4.
The loss set up a much anticipated rematch between HRV and Milwaukie for third place. After losing game one 15-12, the Eagles regained their focus and stole game two 16-14. The emotion from that comeback carried over into game three, as HRV won a convincing third set 15-3.
"I felt like we lost our focus at times, but the girls came together in the end and pulled out third place," Norton said. "It was a positive note to end on."
Norton said the team's passing and serve receive were strong throughout the day, and much improved over the Barlow match. Lindsey Sanguras and Elizabeth Acevedo solidified the passing game, while setters Kara Herman and Meghan Flink consistently set up quality shots at the net.
The biggest weakness on the day was serving.
"We had a chance to beat the teams we lost to, but we missed serves at critical times during the match," Norton said.
She hopes the team improves its serving and net defense so they can ride the high of their exceptional tournament finish into Thursday's game against Centennial.