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- Written by Bruce McCain
- Last Updated on June 27, 2012
- Published on November 2, 2008
- Hits: 2012
Top ranked Blanchet hopes to claim its first volleyball title, but will face tough competition from No 3. Nestucca, which hopes to claim the NWL’s third straight championship. Yet the Blue Mountain Conference may have the final say as three more Beasts from the East – No. 2 Heppner, No. 4 Weston-McEwen and Cinderella Elgin – converge at Pacific University next Friday and Saturday.OregonPrepSports.net will once again provide the best and most complete coverage of the 2A and 1A volleyball tournaments for you. So let’s begin by taking a look at the eight 2A quarterfinalists meeting in the opening round …
A – No. 13 Monroe vs. B – No. 1 Blanchet Catholic (Friday 1:15 pm, Court 1)
Top-ranked Blanchet opens the 2A quarterfinals with what appears to be the biggest mismatch in the bracket. Monroe will have to play its best match of the year to upset the Cavaliers.
A – Monroe (MVC #2; 14-6, 10-4)
Monroe finished 2nd behind Yoncalla in the Mountain View Conference and captured the district’s #2 seed as well. The Dragons got off to a quick 4-0 start in preseason play before losing 2-0 to Nestucca at the Santiam tournament. 2nd-year coach Debbie Crocker has done a great job getting the Dragons back into the volleyball finals site. But her Dragons were hardly breathing fire after a 3-2 loss at North Douglas on October 21. According to the Corvallis Gazette, “The girls already knew they were going on to state,” coach Crocker said. “They definitely need to regroup if they are going to go on to state and do anything.”
Regroup they did, as Monroe dispatched North Douglas 3-1 a week later in district seeding. After dropping a 3-0 district sedding match to Yoncalla, the Dragons advanced to the quarterfinals with a 3-0 win over DeLaSalle (NWL #3) in Saturday’s first round. Monroe’s last volleyball trophy came in 2001, when the Dragons lost to former Trico –and current MVC – rival Central Linn in the championship match. Four seniors anchor the Monroe court, led by MB Kim Thompson, OH Clara Crocker, OH McKenzie Warden and setter Tessa Stroda.
B- Blanchet Catholic (TRC #1; 32-2, 16-0)
Last year, Blanchet Catholic lost to eventual champ Portland Christian, 3-1, in the 2A semifinals. But the Cavaliers rebounded to defeat Bonanza for the 3rd place trophy – the first in school history. This year, head coach Sherrie Bashaw has higher aspirations for her Cavs, ranked #1 in the latest (10-27-2008) 2A coaches poll.Led by four-year starters Katie Bashaw and Irene Walters, the Cavaliers have not lost to a 2A opponent this season and have not lost a best-of-five match since last year’s semifinal loss to the Royals.
Since dropping a 2-0 tournament match to 6A Central Catholic’s JV team on September 27, Blanchet has gone undefeated, winning its last 54 games without a loss.Blanchet won the Tri-River Conference title outright, going undefeated in matches and losing only a single game (to Salem Academy on September 9) in the process. Look for the Cavaliers to play again late Friday night.
C – No. 4 Bonanza vs. D. No. 4 Weston-McEwen (Friday 1:15 pm, Court 2)
With both teams ranked evenly at No. 4 apiece in the latest 2A coaches poll, this quarterfinal opener pits a rematch of last year’s other semi-final match, won by W-M in four games. But Tiger-Scot coach Shawn White is not taking the Antlers lightly.Immediately after his team eliminated defending champs Portland Christian on Saturday, coach White turned his attention to Bonanza, which poses its own set of problems for its opponents. “When you first see them,” said White, “they don’t immediately impress you as typical volleyball players. But they’re tremendous athletes who come at you from all kinds of different angles and really create problems.” Given last year’s results, this should be a good one.
C – Bonanza (SCL #1; 22-7-1; 12-0)
Last year, long time coach Donna Romtvedt guided her Antlers to the 5th place trophy, the school’s first trophy since 1994’s 3rd place finish. This year, her senior-dominated squad ranked No. 4 by the 2A coaches, returns to Pacific University looking to improve the hardware. When it comes to playoff experience, there simply is no substitution for having been there before. This group was still playing Saturday night last year, so the Forest Grove jitters should be well behind these Bonanza seniors.
Coach Romtvedt graduated Jana Walker last year, but returns virtually her entire roster from 2007. The Antlers are led by four-year veteran Addie Gallagher – a 2nd team All Tournament selection in 2007 – and senior setter Sherry Powell, also a four-year varsity player. In fact, the 2007 and 2008 rosters, including uniform numbers, are identical except for the absence of two graduated seniors.
Bonanza won the SCL title, going undefeated in match play, and claimed the district’s #1 seed. In opening round play on Saturday, the Antlers knocked off North Douglas (MVC #3), 25-10, 25-15, 21-25, 25-22. Bonanza’s only losses to a 2A school this season were a pair of 2-0 tournament losses to top-ranked Blanchet Catholic in the St. Mary’s Crusader Classic.
D – Weston-McEwen (BMC #2; 29-8-1, 13-1)
Despite Portland Christian’s back-to-back titles in 2006-2007, no 2A volleyball program has been as successful the past five years as coach Shawn White’s Tiger-Scots. After taking over an already-successful program from Mike Kyles in 2003, coach White won the 2A title in 2004, followed by 4th place in 2005, then back-to-back 2nd place trophies in 2006 and 2007. Playing volleyball at 9:00 pm on the final Saturday has been a regularly scheduled item for the red and black Athena faithful who support their team as well as any in small school volleyball.When asked how this team compares to his prior teams, White said, “We are a determined team - much like the other four. What we lack in height or speed we make up for in determination and aggressiveness.”
Ranked at the top of the 2A coaches poll for most of the season, W-M took a tumble in both the standings and the poll with the season-ending injury to Noel Griggs, a senior OH who was a BMC 1st Team selection this year and was named W-M’s Qwest Player-of-the-Game in last year’s championship match. White and his players can do nothing to hide or fix Griggs’ injury or absence. But instead, he has put together a “rotation by committee” in an attempt to plug the hole left by Griggs. So far, so good, as senior starters Sheridan Cain (BMC HM), Jen Thul (BMC 2nd Team) and Stephanie Frank are joined by junior Presley Pahl (BMC 1st Team) and sophomore Renee Baumann (BMC HM) in leading the Tiger-Scots back in the hunt for a late Saturday match with a foe yet to be determined.
White says this year’s Blue Mountain Conference and a rugged non-league schedule has tested his team well. “The BMC was the most competitive that I have seen it. It was a great year to have the four seeds for our conference. I'm sure that all four teams will be very competitive at the state level,” White said last week. On that point he was correct, with the BMC sending three teams to Pacific University. Meanwhile, his team’s losses are nothing to fret about. Besides losing three matches to No. 2 Heppner (BMC #1), the Tiger-Scots’ only other losses were tournament losses to 5A #3 Pendleton (2-0), 3A #1 Burns (2-0), 4A #10 La Grande (2-0) and to a pair of large out-of-state schools. But coach White needs to look no farther back than last year’s semifinals to realize his team will be tested early and often by a veteran Bonanza team.
E – No. 11 Elgin vs. F – No. 8 Salem Academy (Friday 3:15 pm, Court 1)
This afternoon quarterfinal match between a district #4 seed and a district #2 seed should be competitive, if not entertaining, for fans of the two schools. Meanwhile, everyone else will likely be watching the action on Court 2.
E – Elgin (BMC #4; 13-12-1, 8-6)
Elgin might not even be at Pacific University but for the fact that the BMC received four playoff entries this year. But as W-M coach Shawn White noted, this was the right time for the BMC to field four playoff seeds. In the district seeding tournament, the Huskies beat Enterprise, then lost to Union in the #3 - #4 seeding match. As a result, Elgin earned a trip to face 6th-ranked Yoncalla, the top seed from the MVC. Union, on the other hand, earned a trip to top-ranked Blanchet. Elgin got the better deal.
Despite its less-than-inspiring .500 record, Elgin held its own against both #2 Heppner and #4 Weston-McEwen during the regular season. Elgin lost twice to each opponent, but all four match losses were five-game marathons. As recently as October 22, Elgin beat W-M 25-17 and 25-21 at Athena, before the Tiger-Scots mounted an emotional, Senior Night comeback to win the match, 3-2. Somewhere in that adversity, Husky coach Twila Ivins must have thought, there is a silver lining. The Huskies made its rugged BMC schedule pay off when they upset Yoncalla, 25-14, 10-25, 25-12, 19-25, 17-15, to advance to the 2A finals site in search of the school’s first-ever volleyball trophy.
Elgin is led by four-year setter Ashley Burgess, who feeds her assists to Tara Ludwig, Chantelle Malone, Karly Knapp and Brandi Campbell, but is also nursing a leg injury. At the net, Ludwig and Campbell present a formidable double-block tandem as well. It is rare for a #4 seed to reach the finals site, and then to stay on the right side of the bracket. But the Huskies can look to Corbett in 2006 for inspiration. That year, the Cardinals stumbled in the NWL districts, but fortunately, the NWL had four seeds that year. As the NWL #4 seed, Corbett went on the road to beat Kennedy (TRC #1) and eventually took home the 3rd place trophy. Like the BMC in 2008, the NWL in 2006 also placed three teams in the quarterfinal bracket, with all three taking home trophies. The BMC can never be overlooked. Ask Yoncalla.
F – Salem Academy (TRC #2; 15-7, 11-5)
TRC volleyball? Oh, yeah. Blanchet, of course. Next question? Well, don’t look now, but the Tri-River Conference is returning another team to Pacific University this year, and it hopes to improve on a 6th place trophy from 2007. Playing in the shadow of Blanchet may have helped Salem Academy avoid much scrutiny this year, until it’s too late for SAC’s opponents.
After finishing 3rd in the TRC regular season standings, SAC beat Kennedy in the TRC districts and ended up with the district #2 seed and a trip to Medford to face St. Mary’s, the SCL #2 seed. The only thing guaranteed in that playoff match was that the Crusaders would defeat the Crusaders. Indeed, coach Aaron Imig’s Crusaders from Salem knocked off their Southern Oregon counterparts, 25-22, 20-25, 25-14, 15-10 to earn a return trip to the 2A finals site.
Last year, coach Imig’s SAC squad drew Weston-McEwen in the first round and pushed the Tiger-Scots hard in a tough 3-1 loss. After sweeping DeLaSalle, 3-0, the Crusaders were in turn swept by a tough Union team from the BMC in the 4th – 6th place trophy match. This year, SAC has another BMC opponent in the opening round. But SAC has a great opportunity to move to the right side of the bracket. If successful, Salem Academy would be assured of at least a 5th place trophy, already improving on last year’s success.
G – No. 2 Heppner vs. No. 3 Nestucca (Friday 3:15 pm, Court 2)
This may be the best opening round match since 2006, when top-ranked Portland Christian and Cascade Christian met in a classic five-game match worthy of a championship. Of the four quarterfinal matches, this is the only one featuring two #1 seeds, who together have only one loss between them to an Oregon 2A school. Unfortunately, as in 2006, a legitimate state champion contender will wake up early to play a Saturday breakfast bracket match.
G – Heppner (BMC #1; 25-5-1, 13-1)
Heppner’s only trophies in volleyball came in 1997 (4th) and 1998 (5th). The Mustangs have not been to the finals site since 1999. Heppner last qualified for the OSAA playoffs in 2006, when the ‘Stangs were swept by Portland Christian, 3-0, in the opening round. What, if anything, does this history have to do with the 2008 Heppner team, currently ranked 2nd in the latest coaches poll? Absolutely nothing.
Coach Pam Dowdy has assembled arguably the best Heppner volleyball team in school history. En route to the BMC title and #1 seed, Heppner took three of four matches against No. 4 Weston-McEwen – a feat surely not lost on Nestucca head coach Lori Chitwood.Heppner has won its last fourteen matches after dropping a 3-0 match to Weston-McEwen on September 20, the team’s only loss to a 2A school. While some may note that along that 14-game win streak, the Mustangs have still lost ten individual games, unlike the impressive game W-L records of Blanchet or Nestucca. But then again, the ‘Cavs and ‘Cats don’t play in the BMC.
Leading the Mustangs this season are senior Sherilyn Peck (BMC 1st Team), freshman JoAnna Patton (BMC 2nd Team), junior setter Jessica Hughes (BMC HM), senior setter Maggie Armato (BMC HM), and a strong bench led by Taighler Dougherty and Brynna Rust. Rounding out the Mustang attack is senior exchange student Lenka Dobosova, a skilled and powerful European player who earned BMC 1st Team honors based on her outstanding play all season.
H – Nestucca (NWL #1; 27-3-1, 12-0)
Since moving into the 2A Northwest League following the reclassification, Nestucca has emerged as a perennial volleyball power with teams known for their overall court awareness, tough defense and a gritty determination so common to winning programs. All of that is attributable to head coach Lori Chitwood, who was awarded a well-deserved NWL Coach-of-the-Year award by her league peers.
For the past two years, Chitwood’s Bobcats have played in the shadow of Kim Hill-led Portland Christian teams. But in 2008, the ‘Cats showed the NWL and the rest of the state that they are the cream of the NWL, posting a 27-3-1 overall record and a perfect 12-0 league record. Against 2A opposition, Nestucca never lost a match and lost only a single game – to PC – against 2A schools. The ‘Cats only match losses were tournament losses to 3A Santiam Christian (2-0) and 3A Sheridan (2-0, 2-1). The Eagles and Spartans are currently ranked #2 each in the latest 3A coaches poll, indicating Nestucca could very well hold its own at the 3A tournament at Willamette University.
Not surprisingly, the ‘Cats dominated the NWL all-league selections, led by four 1st Team picks: senior Hillary Heathershaw (NWL POY), senior Kelsea Hurliman, senior setter Emily Pieren, and libero Megan Boisa. Those four were joined by senior Amy Elder (NWL 2nd Team) and senior Jessica Windle (NWL HM).
For seniors Heathershaw, Hurliman and Pieran, the return trip to Pacific University is a reprise of 2006 when those three were part of Nestucca’s 6th place trophy run. In that season, Nestucca made it to Pacific, only to face Weston-McEwen in the opening round and lost, 3-1. Last year, Nestucca slipped to the NWL #3 seed and suffered a tough road draw to – yes, Weston-McEwen – where the ‘Cats again lost in four games. Friday, Nestucca will square off once again against the best of the BMC in another attempt to get to the right side of the bracket. Nestucca has the coach, players, record, stats, fan support – but not recent history – to get the job done.
Unless you’re a parent, friend or relative of an Elgin or Salem Academy player, you will want to claim your Court 2 seat early for this one.
*NOTE* Many of you have said you print these previews and tuck 'em inside your official OSAA program. Thanks!