BOARDMAN - The ball was in Riverside's court, but the team couldn't put it over the net to secure a spot in the Class 3A state volleyball playoffs.
Thanks to a 3-0 loss to Vale (13-7, 8-2 EOL) Saturday evening, the Pirates (9-10, 5-5 EOL) will have to play a single-match playoff against Grant Union Tuesday to determine who goes on and who goes home.
The loss followed a 3-0 win over Nyssa earlier in the day to secure at least the one-match playoff.
The Pirates led in each game and looked to be in control for stretches, but every door that seemed open was quickly shut one way or another.
In the first game Cherie Guenther and Kayla Nelson put down a combined four kills in a row to tie the game at 16-16, but hitting errors on three of the next five plays by the team kept the Pirates from making their move.
In Game 2 the Vikings missed nine serves, but though the Pirates were the first to 24 they couldn't hit the last point.
And even with the squads trading points for most of Game 3, the Vikings scored seven in a row late to seal the win.
Riverside coach Kelly Doherty said the front line needed to put up a little more pressure against Vale's attack, something the smaller Pirates have trouble doing.
"A few more blocks and we'd be in it," she said. "We should have been in it."
Brittney McCullough (8 assists) said the girls felt pretty good about the way they competed, though the trend remains the same against Vale.
"It seems like every time we play them really good, and we get a lead but they catch up," she said. "It happens every time."
Riverside and Grant Union split the season series and each finished league play 5-5, so Tuesday's game in Pilot Rock was required to sort out the one worthy of moving on.
Last year it was Grant Union that kept Riverside out of the playoffs, and the Pirates are hoping to spoil the Prospectors' fun this time around.
"When we lost (in John Day earlier in the season) we already knew we'd beat them, so we were a little overconfident," McCullough said. "But we do have better confidence this year than we did last year."
Though size will again be an issue against Grant Union's heavy hitters, Riverside showed Saturday it can stay in games until the end, and with the playoffs on the line will hope to take revenge for last year's playoff miss.
"It seems like they're our spoiler," Doherty said. "Hopefully it's our turn."
Game time is set for 5 p.m.