PRAIRIE CITY - It took the powerful Prairie City High School volleyball team four games to beat the visiting Mountaineers on Sept. 7.
Expect a lively rematch when Prairie City hosts Long Creek at 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13.
First action between the teams was during the Prairie City Panthers Invitational Volleyball Tournament last weekend. In the quarterfinals, Prairie City overcame a slow start to defeat Long Creek 23-25, 25-17, 25-10, 25-21.
Under new Oregon School Activities Association rules, teams play to 25 points, not 15, and they compete for best of five matches, not best of three. However, the rules also allow rally, or side-out, scoring, meaning either side scores when the ball hits the floor on the opponent's side of the net, regardless of possession. Also, serves into the net count as a point for the other team, rather than merely a change of possession; serves that hit the net and go over are now considered legal serves.
The new rules aimed for faster-paced games, and eight teams at the Prairie City tournament delivered on this expectation.
Prairie City won all three of its matches to earn the title of tournament champions on Saturday, and they won convincingly. Only Long Creek forced the Panthers past three games. Prairie City handled Huntington 25-16, 25-13, 25-17 in their opener and cruised past the Baker City High School junior varsity squad 25-20, 25-18, 25-10 in the championship match.
Ultimately, best match of the tournament was the battle for third place between Long Creek and Spray. Both came off gut-wrenching losses. Long Creek had fallen to Prairie City in the four-game series; Spray had lost to the Baker JV, also in a hotly contested four-game match.
Facing each other for the first time, Long Creek and Spray closed the tournament with an emotional, seesaw match that finally ended in Long Creek's favor, 23-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-23, 17-15. In the decisive tie-breaker game, Spray broke a 3-3 deadlock with a surge to lead 7-3, but Long Creek answered with a surge of its own, edging within 7-6. Spray answered for a 10-6 lead, but the Mountaineers managed another burst of momentum and tied the game 11-11. Then, aided by miscues from the Eagles, Long Creek built a 14-12 lead, the game tied again at 14-14, and poised play on offense by Long Creek and balls hit into the net by Spray finally swung the game to the Mountaineers.
Joey Vaughan served up one of the critical rallies for Long Creek, while Megan Garber and Lacey Tankersley teamed up on serves to keep the game close for Spray. It was only the second five-game match of the tournament.
Grant County coaches voiced approval of what they saw at the tournament. Prairie City coach Eva Saul said she witnessed powerful hitting from Lindy Black, Brittany Reid, Cherise Ricco, Amanda Rockhill and Danielle Smith, all of whom played varsity last year.
"I think we're a lot stronger than we were last year at the end of the season," Saul said.
Long Creek coach James Hixenbaugh credited the Panthers for pounding the ball in their four-game match.
"Prairie City has a lot of good hitting," he said.
However, he added, "We came out ready to play," and he praised the Mountaineers for an outstanding performance for their first competition of the season.
Long Creek travels to the Pine Eagle Tournament Saturday, Sept. 14.
Following are results by bracket from the Sept. 7 Prairie City Panthers Invitational Volleyball Tournament:
Opening matches - Baker JV def. Pine Eagle 25-22, 25-16, 25-21; Long Creek def. Burnt River 25-23, 25-15, 25-15; Prairie City def. Huntington 25-16, 25-13, 25-17; Spray def. Harper 25-16, 25-15, 25-10.
Winners' bracket - Quarterfinals: Baker JV def. Spray 25-13, 26-24, 15-25, 27-25. Prairie City def. Long Creek 23-25, 25-17, 25-10, 25-21.
Losers' bracket - Third place: Long Creek def. Spray 23-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-23, 17-15. Quarterfinals: Burnt River def. Huntington 25-21, 16-25, 25-19, 25-18; Pine Eagle def. Harper 25-20, 25-16, 25-10. Fifth place: Pine Eagle def. Burnt River 25-10, 25-9, 25-8. Seventh place: Harper def. Huntington 19-25, 25-19, 22-25, 25-23, 15-11.
Other results: Sept. 6, Prairie City at Condon - Prairie City def. Condon 18-25, 25-16, 25-15, 25-14.