The 2019 Clearwater Classic might as well have been a preview for the later rounds of the high school volleyball state playoffs, which are only weeks away.
Six of the top 11 Class 6A teams in the OSAA state rankings were present at the 36th annual tournament held in Bend. And the No. 3 Class 5A team was in the field, as well.
Unfortunately for the local teams, none of the four that reached the Gold Bracket advanced past the opening round of bracket play. Summit, Bend, Mountain View and Ridgeview all fell in the opening round of the eight-team bracket.
For the second straight year and 11th time total, the Clearwater title went to Central Catholic of Portland, which beat Sprague of Salem in straight sets, 25-16, 25-19.
With the four local teams making up the entire consolation portion of the Gold Bracket, it looked as though the tournament would be used to determine volleyball supremacy in the area. That was, until Summit and Ridgeview decided not to face off in the final match.
Summit — coming off an important win on Thursday over Sprague to force a three-way tie for first place in the Mountain Valley Conference — was swept by Mountainside of Beaverton, falling 25-23 in the first set, then surrendering a 20-12 lead to the Mavericks, losing 26-24. The Storm then dispatched Mountain View in straight sets, 25-22, 25-16, to end the tournament on a positive note.
Summit closes the final two weeks of the season with matches against intracity rivals Mountain View and Bend High and trips to Salem to play McKay and West Salem. Closing out the regular season with four wins would guarantee the Storm at least a share of the conference title.
Perhaps the most surprising performance Saturday came from the smallest school to reach the Gold Bracket. Ridgeview did not appear to be intimidated by some of Class 6A’s top programs.
The 5A Ravens pushed highly ranked West Linn to the brink, forcing a third set in which 15 points were not enough to determine the winner. The Lions eventually beat the Ravens 20-18 to advance to the semifinals.
The Ravens then handed Bend a pair of 25-17 losses to eliminate the Lava Bears.
“(The Ravens) were really in a flow,” Bend coach Kristen Cooper said after the Ravens beat the Lava Bears. “They have a lot of good connections on their team, and we just couldn’t keep our flow going. We were really up and down, and they were really steady.”
The Ravens control their own destiny in the Intermountain Conference. If they win their final four games, they will be crowned champions. Ridgeview’s toughest remaining match will come at home against No. 5 Crook County on Oct. 22. Ridgeview already has a win over Crook County on the Cowgirls’ home court.
Mountain View had Gold Bracket top-seeded Sprague on the ropes, winning the first set 25-23. However, the Olympians rallied to win the second set 25-21, then won the final three points to take the deciding third set 16-14. The Cougars were bounced from the tournament in straight sets by the Storm in the consolation bracket.
Despite the quick exit, Mountain View coach Kate Hunter was pleased with how her team competed. The Cougars lost a close match to No. 4 Mountainside and advanced to the Gold Bracket for the first time in Hunter’s five seasons leading the Cougars program.
“I think today was a great showing of what we can do,” Hunter said. “We went 25-24 to Mountainside. We went three (sets) with Sprague, who beat us (in a conference match) on Tuesday. We are really showing what we are capable of.”
Of the seven 6A teams in the Gold Bracket field, the Cougars came in with the lowest current state ranking. The next two weeks will determine whether they make their first playoff appearance since 2016, with matchups against Summit, Bend, West Salem and South Salem.
“We always play our best against (Bend and Summit),” Hunter said. “It’s our rivalry; it’s super fun; our league is super fun. I think we will be fine. They seem to be fine with quick turnarounds.”
Before being swept by Ridgeview, the Lava Bears were also swept by Central Catholic in the opening round. The Rams closed the first set against Bend on a 14-2 run, winning 25-11, then won by double digits again in the second set, 25-11.
Even though the Rams won in convincing fashion over the Lava Bears, Cooper took a number of positives away from the match.
“I thought we played a really fast-paced game against Central Catholic,” the Bend coach said. “They were just really big, and we had a hard time responding to that, but I was happy with how we responded mentally and physically against them.”
There are no easy wins left on Bend’s schedule. Still in the hunt for a league title, the Lava Bears play a rivalry game against Mountain View, then face Summit and Sprague on the road in matches that will likely play a role in determining the conference champion.
“For us, it’s about fixing mental things,” Cooper said. “I’m seeing a few things that if we can capitalize on our strengths, then we have a shot.”
The Clearwater Classic included 24 teams starting Saturday morning with pool play at Summit, Mountain View and Bend High. Pool play determined bracket designations. Bend High hosted the Gold Bracket, Silver was staged at Mountain View and Bronze at Summit.
Crook County advanced to the semifinals of the Silver Bracket with a 2-0 (25-14. 26-24) win over Ashland before falling to West Albany 2-1 (25-13, 22-25, 15-5) in the semifinals. Redmond made a semifinal run in the Bronze Bracket with a 2-1 win over Grants Pass (25-23, 25-27, 15-10) before being swept by Roseburg 25-19, 25-21.
— Reporter: 541-383-0307, email@example.com