by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge outside hitter Nicole Rigoni thumps a spike at the Lake Oswego defense during the Skyhawks four-set loss on Thursday.

Nicole Rigoni’s mind is made up.

The Southridge volleyball team’s tri-captain has her sights set on being at Liberty High School Nov. 8-9 for the 6A state tournament. Her confidence in her squad, despite the Skyhawks losing in four games to Lake Oswego 25-22, 25-14, 22-25 and 27-25 on Thursday, is certainly tangible.

“I think we can do anything we want this season,” said Rigoni. “We just need to focus more in practice on the little things: getting a base, defense, serve-receive and serving. But, if we want to go to the top eight in state, we’re going to go.”

Trailing two games to none, head coach Brooke Mayo said it’s normally tough to keep the momentum up and the team’s inner psyche high. Even so, Southridge axed back to within a point of forcing the Lake Oswego squad to a fifth and final game, winning the third set 25-22 before barely losing the fourth, 26-24.

“I thought they did a great job of staying mentally tough,” said Mayo. “In the fourth set, we were two evenly matched teams, and they just made fewer mistakes than we did.”by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge outside hitter Nicole Rigoni urges team to fix the little things after losing the first two games to Lake Oswego.

Mayo likes to call on all 17 of her players and mix up different rotations. Once Southridge situated some of its forceful thumpers like Bethany Kosmoski, Sydney Jacobs and Sofia Basauri, who controlled the ball and were consistent, the Skyhawks’ offense began to take flight. Mayo said McClean was a great leader in the backcourt, telling her team what’s open, helping the hitters and talking to the defense about adjusting.

“I’m really proud of the depth of our bench,” said Mayo. “Everybody’s ready to go at any time. We change our lineup all the time, and they respond well to that. It worked out well for us. We played well that third and fourth set.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge outside hitter Krysta Hamilton tips a ball at the Lake Oswego defense.

Stepped it up

Mayo acknowledged senior Caitlin Mahoney’s efforts at outside hitter too, and applauded her for making the most out of an opportunity.

“She hasn’t got a lot of playing time this season, and she really stepped it up,” said Mayo. “She took care of the ball. She was being aggressive and smart. She did what we asked her to do. I’m really proud of how she played today.”

Rigoni — Southridge’s first-string setter — was taken out of her comfort zone when Mayo moved the 5-foot-8 senior to the perimeter against the Lakers. The developing outside hitter carried Southridge for stretches of the third set, taking passes from setter Erin Stuhldreher and crushing them to vacant regions on the floor. Rigoni wasn’t going to allow her team to get swept on their home court, and she played like it — with five kills and a twosome of blocks.

“We mixed her up and put her on the right side sometimes, and she just did a great job of hitting,” said Mayo. “She gets real excited and gets the team pumped up. She’s a natural leader on the court.”

Rigoni was quick to applaud her teammates for featuring her on the outside and passing her killable balls above the net.

“They were helping me a lot,” said Rigoni. “They were telling me shots, Chan (McClean) was telling me shots. They got me motivated.”

There are modifications to make, Rigoni reminded her team after the game, such as learning how to pick up tips at the net and make sure two blockers are going up simultaneously to block kill attempts. Grasping the tough serve is also at the top of the tweaking list.

Southridge claimed a 22-21 lead in the first game, only to be downed by three unforced errors that handed the Lakers the win.

“Overall, we didn’t play to our full potential,” said Rigoni. “We need to learn how to make changes right away, but overall we’re a strong team, and we can make those.”

Rigoni said the Skyhawks’ blockers adjusted their positions in front of Lake Oswego’s athletic hitters, and the passing was much better in the third game. by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge defensive specialist Kelly McClean serves a ball from the backline against Lake Oswego.

“Our hitters were able to work different areas of the court better,” added McClean. “We were listening to our coaches and were able to find the open areas.”

McClean credited Southridge’s improvement in the third and fourth games, but said overall, the Skyhawks made a few too many errors throughout the contest.

“We could’ve adjusted quicker to where they were serving, where they were hitting,” said McClean. “But overall, I think we did alright.

“It’s obviously early in the season, and we have a lot to work on. I think we have very good potential. We have 18 really strong players, and I think we can do well.”

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