By Brian Rathbone

The Bulletin

Bend coach Kristin Cooper reiterated a quote she picked up from former Cal and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp as her team was struggling to find its way in a rivalry game against Mountain View. “The bear doesn’t give up, the bear does not quit.”

The Lava Bears were on the verge of dying Wednesday evening in front of a pair of rowdy student sections in the “Black Hole” at Mountain View High on Wednesday night.

According to OSAA records, a loss to Mountain View would have been Bend’s first since the Lava Bears fell to the Cougars in a tournament on Sept. 7, 2013.

“You just never give up, you never know what’s going to happen, momentum shifts, especially in volleyball, it’s a huge momentum sport,” Cooper said. “So I kept telling them to keep going at it.”

The Lava Bears didn’t quit. Instead, they rallied from a 2-0 hole to come back to win 3-2 and stun the Cougars, winning the final three sets to keep the streak alive against their crosstown rivals.

Bend improved to 4-1 in Mountain Valley Conference play, tied for second place with Summit, which scored a 3-0 home sweep over ­McKay on Wednesday. Mountain View slipped to 2-3 in the MVC.

“It’s a really hard thing to do here in the Black Hole,” Cooper said. “It’s loud here, so I was really proud of the girls being able to pull this out against Mountain View.”

It was a night that was supposed to belong to the underdog Cougars.

They were at home. They rallied from trailing 12-5 in the first set to outscore the Lava Bears 20-8 and capture their first set against Bend since Sept. 30, 2014.

Behind her school-record 27 kills, Mountain View senior Jasmine Martin and company won an evenly contested second set — which featured 11 ties — by a 25-20 score. The Cougars needed to win one more race to 25 to get the long-awaited match win against Bend.

The win did not come. Instead, Bend showed why the program has won 5A state titles in 2016 and 2017 before making the jump to 6A last year.

“It comes down to experience,” said Mountain View coach Kate Hunter. “Mountain View is the underdog, a lot of girls don’t play club volleyball, pretty much every girl on the Bend side does. Experience is one of those tough things, when you are in those tight matches, especially one that goes five sets, experience is going to play a big factor.”

Perhaps the difference in the match was a coaching adjustment made by Cooper to put her tallest player — sophomore Marley Hardgrave — against the 6-foot-3-inch Martin in the later sets.

Cooper was reluctant to pair her youngster with Martin because she was not sure how she would handle being in a big setting.

But the way Martin was dominating the match, there weren’t many other options.

“I told her to go chest to chest with her and if you aren’t going to block, you’re going to at least slow her down,” Cooper said. “We know she is going to get her big kills — let it happen and let’s answer back. That was our strategy.”

The sophomore earned her coach’s trust.

All of a sudden Martin’s kills did not come as easy. In the later sets, attempts were either being stuffed at the net or sailing high and out of bounds.

“I was nervous at first, but I’ve gone against her in club (volleyball) so I was ready,” Hardgrave said. “I was like ‘I can do this’ and I know my abilities.”

“It’s always intimidating going against her, it feels great to shut her down,” added Lava Bears setter Megan Bushnell, who finished with 40 assists.

“She’s one of the best hitters in the state, so it feels good to shut her down.”

The Cougars and the Lava Bears could be seeing each other once again this weekend.

Both teams will be playing in the Rogue Valley Invitational at North Medford High on Saturday.

— Reporter: 541-383-0307,