Mt. Hood CC keeps rolling by taking the crown at their host tournament

by: SANDY POST: DAVID BALL - Mt. Hoods Kealy Siegel, 2, celebrates with teammates after registering a point. GRESHAM — Every player, coach and official in sight at the Dorian Harris Halloween Volleyball Classic donned a costume of some sort in the weekend tournament at Mt. Hood. The Saints’ dominating performance was what really spooked the visiting teams.

Mt. Hood went 5-0 in the tournament, creaming every team it faced, to win the tournament without facing a legitimate threat.

The Saints cruised in their two matches on Friday to set themselves up well on Saturday. After enjoying a first-round bye, Mt. Hood set the tone for bracket play when it took on Umpqua in the second round. Costumed in 80’s aerobic gear, the Saints hammered Umpqua from the first serve and disposed of the Riverhawks with a 3-0 sweep (25-11, 25-3, 25-15) in less than an hour.

Umpqua was riding a 3-0 win of its own in the first round of bracket play earlier in the day, but Mt. Hood doused that momentum immediately. The Saints raced out to a 13-4 lead to open the match to gain complete control.

Mt. Hood made a theme of jumping to huge leads and riding them to the finish. In the second set, the Saints gained a quick 9-1 advantage. They only allowed two more points for the remainder of the set.

In Game 3, the Saints grabbed eight of the first nine points, diffusing any comeback intentions the Riverhawks may have had.

The key for Mt. Hood in the match, other than its quick starts, was its clean play. The Saints made no service errors and very few hitting errors. They gave Umpqua no free points and kept points alive for as long as possible.

“That has been a big emphasis in practice,” Mt. Hood coach Chelsie Speer said. “We’ve been focusing on limiting unforced errors and keeping the ball in play, and just staying calm and steady out on the court. The team that does that usually wins.”

To stay close, Umpqua would have needed an offense as equally potent as Mt. Hood’s, but that was not the case. The Riverhawk hitters did not have nearly the power or the accuracy of the team across the net.

They didn’t have the mental edge, either. Each time Umpqua tried to catch Mt. Hood off guard with tips and finesse hits, but the Saints anticipated everything the Riverhawks did. For every tip, there was a Saint there backing up the blockers. Umpqua gave up on that and tried to hammer it with angled spikes and hits down the line, but only a few of those hits even got past Mt. Hood’s blockers. Umpqua never managed more than a couple points at a time at any point in the match.

“It was huge for us to not give up runs of more than one or two points,” Speer said. “It’s so important to play in the moment and not look ahead, even one point.”

Mt. Hood’s ability to stay one step ahead of Umpqua was not limited to its defense. The Saints’ offense was just as successful reading and anticipating the opposition. After connecting on a few straight hard hits, Mt. Hood hitters Lihau Perreira and Xayna Robinson tipped balls over Umpqua’s newly-added blocker. When the Riverhawks had someone drop into the open space, Mt. Hood setter Rachel Woodcock dropped a set into the vacated area. Whatever Umpqua attempted to do, it was never enough.

The Saints went on to defeat Tacoma 3-0 (26-24, 25-22, 25-18) in the semifinals to advance to the title match against Olympic. Mt. Hood faced its toughest test of the tournament in Olympic, but prevailed in four sets (25-23, 25-22, 20-25, 25-20) to win the championship. In five total matches in the tournament, the Saints lost just one set.

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