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The No. 6 Cougars closed out the College of the Canyons Tri-Tourney by dropping a tough four-set decision to No. 18 Mira Costa Friday. Set scores were 28-26, 15-25, 23-25, and 22-25.

COC sophomore Emily Burns led the Cougars with 14 kills while Shayla Johnson chipped in 13. Demi Dawson led the defense with 11 digs.

“[This was] definitely the first match all season we seemed to be out of sorts,” COC head coach Clay Timmons said. “We had a game plan, we didn’t implement it, and didn’t adjust the way my team is usually able to do.”

Set one saw the Cougars jump out to an early 5-1 behind the strong serving of Caroline Page who collected three early aces. A huge kill from the right side by Burns swelled the lead to 13-6 forcing a second timeout from Mira Costa.

However, the Spartans were not out of the set as back-to-back blocks closed the lead to 16-10. Mira Costa eventually trimmed the lead to three on an off-speed kill from Violeti Faleumu.

A quick kill from Toni Bido silenced the run momentarily, but a kill and an ace from Faleumu closed the lead to two. The two teams traded errors until Burns swung wide closing the lead to one at 22-21. After back-to-back hitting errors gave the Spartans a brief lead, the Cougars rallied and finished off the set on an ace from Kelsey Strong.

Set two was also a back-and-forth affair with neither team finding much separation early on.

The Spartans took a 10-8 lead but COC sophomore Morgan Ferguson crushed an overpass which started a 4-0 run for the Cougars. The Spartans answered with their own 5-0 run highlighted by a kill down the line from Reilly Bosworth.

Mira Costa’s lead grew to 19-15 on a mishandled ball called on the Cougars, prompting Timmons to use his final timeout of the set. The timeout couldn’t squash the momentum as the Spartans closed out the set on four straight COC hitting errors.

The Cougars jumped out to an early 6-3 lead in set three on a dump kill from Ferguson. The Spartans then closed the lead to one on a deep corner kill, but the Cougars seemed to have the answer on an ace from Demi Dawson.

However, the Spartans rallied yet again and took a four-point lead on a 7-0 run, forcing a timeout from the Cougars.

Burns silenced the momentum on a huge blast from the right side and then a mishandled ball call shrunk the lead to two. COC freshman Colette Reynolds kept the rally going with a kill through the block and suddenly the lead was trimmed to one, forcing a timeout from the Spartans.

However, a service error and off-speed kill from Faleumu grew the lead back to three for Mira Costa. The Cougars rallied to close the lead to one on back-to-back kills from Bido, but could get no closer as the Spartans closed out the set on an overpass kill.

Set four saw both teams trade points back-and-forth to seven with neither team gaining even a two-point advantage. The Spartans found their first piece of separation after Burns swung wide and Claire Kinder collected an off-speed kill. An ace from Mira Costa’s Hayley Huntsman grew the lead to four but the Cougars rallied and tied the score on a kill from Shayla Johnson.

The rally was short-lived as the Spartans went on their own four-point run, highlighted by an ace from Jazleigh Ortiz. The Cougars were able to cut the lead to one late in the match, but the Spartans closed it out on a kill from Kinder.

“We’ve got to put [our players] in uncomfortable positions in practice more often, and have them get used to playing from behind”, Timmons said. “Frankly, we are used to playing from ahead and we need to have thicker skin.”

The Cougars, ranked No. 6 6 in the state, drop to 8-4 with the loss. Canyons will return to the court on Wednesday, Sept. 27, in a home match vs. Victor Valley College. First serve in the Cougar Cage is set for 6 p.m.

Here’s the box score.

Stay up to date on all this season’s action by following the College of the Canyons Athletic department on social media at @COCathletics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

— Brandon Johnson/COC Sports Information

— Photo credit Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information

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