Cougars volleyball looks to reach NWAC playoffs

Sporting their grey and pink jerseys, Clackamas Community College’s volleyball team proved once again why they’re so highly ranked in the Northwest Athletic Conferences RPI rankings; sweeping Mt. Hood Community College three sets to none on Wednesday.

“So far so good, [the season] is going well and we’re excited,” Head Coach Sarah Hoeke said after the Cougars’ win.

Clackamas is currently 15-13 overall, ranked sixth in the RPI ranking and their 3-2 record in league play is one win short of last year’s total of four wins. The Cougars are tied with Clark College for third place in the South Region and have high hopes for where their season is headed.

“Our goal is to go all the way [to the NWAC Championship],” Hoeke said. “That’s what we push for, that’s what we practice for, that’s why we play hard, that’s why we do what we do.”

If the Cougars make the NWAC tournament, it will be the first time since 2014 and the first postseason appearance with Hoeke at the helm. Hoeke feels the team has a certain chemistry that could help send them back to the playoffs.

“[The chemistry] is good, it’s really good,” Hoeke said. “It’s probably better than I’ve had in several years. It just feels good out there, they’re playing well together, they’re meshing well together and it shows when we play.”

Sophomore outside hitter Hanna Yamashita is leading the way for Clackamas in the kills department with 245 – the second most kills in the NWAC – but Yamashita gives credit to her teammates for her success.

“Honestly, it’s my team,” Yamashita said. “Without my team behind me and talking to me, I wouldn’t be able to be successful in the front row. All the girls work hard in practice and it helps in our matches.”

The Cougs’ defensive efforts are led by their gritty sophomore Libra Rachel McCoy. McCoy currently has the second most digs in the NWAC with 355 and is averaging 4.55 digs per set. McCoy is hoping to continue to be a league leader in digs and aims to finish number one in digs in the NWAC.

“I look at the stats every day and I’m edging on those other girls,” McCoy said. “I’m keeping track and I really want to end as number one so it’s always in the back of my mind. I want to do it for the team.”

With such a tightly contested race in the South Region, Clackamas can’t afford to lose many games

“Having an off night can cost us in conference, but I trust my team and trust that we’ll be successful when we need to be,” Yamashita said. “We need to play together, work hard and execute every single play.”

Clackamas will host the Clark Penguins [12-14, 3-2] on Friday in a battle for third place.

UPDATE:

Clackamas defeated Clark College to jump to second place in the South Region standings.

Clackamas took the first two sets (25-22, 25-21)  in Friday’s match before dropping the third and both sets (25-21, 25-13), but were able to hold off the Penguins in the fifth set (15-12) to win the match.

Sophomore outside hitter Hanna Yamashita led the Cougars in scoring with 19 points and sophomore outside hitter Naomi Earwood finished with 15 points. Rachel McCoy led Clackamas with 35 digs and now has 392 digs on the season