When East Linn Christian Academy faced Central Linn earlier this season, the Cobras took an easy 25-9, 25-3, 25-15 victory.
Over the past month, the Eagles have improved, earning wins over Jefferson, Oakridge and Oakland in Central Valley Conference matches. East Linn Christian has also fared well in tournaments, defeating Regis and Mapleton, among others.
So when the Eagles (9-6, 3-5 CVC) faced league-leading Central Linn on Oct. 3, the match felt very different.
The Cobras (13-2, 8-0 CVC) won 25-12, 25-19, 25-19 in a spirited, competitive match.
"Central Linn is a great team and we came out to play them tonight. It was definitely different than the first time we played them this season. Our team looked totally different tonight," said second-year coach Ronita Slayden.
The difference was in her squad's competitive attitude. That was especially evident in the third set when the Cobras built an early lead and were in position to take an easy sweep. The Eagles battled back into contention before Central Linn went on a late run to close out the match.
"It was so exciting. The girls showed up to play tonight. They were ready," said second-year head coach Ronita Slayden. "The girls really took ownership of the game tonight out on the court and they started making those adjustments and seeing the plays. It was phenomenal."
Senior Sara Morton led the Eagles with six kills, to go with eight assists and 12 digs. Junior Kylie Eastman had a team-leading 25 assists and 13 digs. Senior Hana Slayden contributed two kills, six assists and a team-high 24 digs.
The Eagles competed at the Western Christian tournament on the weekend and defeated Mannahouse Christian Academy (26-24, 25-14) and Myrtle Point (25-22, 16-25, 15-9).
In Slayden's first season, the Eagles went 2-17 and were winless (0-14) in league. This year's success has been well-earned.
"We have a small team, we have seven playing members and one injured and we're floating from JV," coach Slayden said. "These girls, the chemistry on this team is amazing. They're here to compete, they're here to improve their skills and to enjoy the game. All of these players are super-passionate about this sport and we're having a great time."
East Linn Christian was scheduled to play at Jefferson on Tuesday and at Oakridge on Thursday.
While the Eagles are in fifth place in the league standings and are still alive in the race for a playoff spot, Slayden doesn't want her squad to think about that. She wants their focus to be on each individual match and competing to the best of their ability.
"I would like to see the intensity that I saw on the court tonight. I would like to see that drive to compete and to fight for every single point regardless of what the score is. I think they did that tonight and that feels really good and we're going to keep moving forward in the same direction," Slayden said.