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Lady Braves roll into playoffs with a win

by: Tommy Whitcomb,

It was a long and perilous week for the Banks volleyball team, but the Lady Braves were able to maneuver their way into the 4A state playoffs for the sixth straight year.

Banks went from playing Astoria on Thursday with a chance to force a three-way tie for first place in the Cowapa League to fighting for its playoff existence on Monday against Scappoose. A three-game sweep of the Indians, however, locked up a playoff berth for Banks (13-4), which will now travel to Stayton tonight for a first-round game against the Capital League's No. 3 seed.

A win against Astoria on Thursday in both teams' regular season finale would have forced a three-way tie along with Tillamook for the Cowapa League title. Unfortunately, Banks stumbled in a three-game loss to the Fishermen and the defeat, combined with Tillamook's earlier upset of Astoria, relegated the Lady Braves to third place. That meant Banks had to fend off Scappoose - which had beaten Yamhill-Carlton in four games to advance - in a one-game playoff for the league's final state playoff berth.

The Lady Banks deftly traversed the league's complicated playoff format, however, and toppled Scappoose 28-26, 25-20, 25-20 to earn a date with Stayton (8-5) tonight in a first-round state playoff showdown.

The winner of tonight's match will travel to Baker (12-0) on Saturday to face the Greater Oregon League regular-season champions.

'We don't know much about Stayton. We saw them once at a tournament and I think we are comparable skill-wise,' said Banks head coach Cherie Vandehey.

Stayton finished third in the Capital League behind La Salle and perennial 4A powerhouse Estacada. Although a loss would end the Lady Braves' season, Vandehey concedes that the year has been a success nonetheless.

'We handled the league well and improved over the course of the season,' she said. 'I feel like the season has been very successful. Cowapa was tough this year and the top three teams were all right there. There wasn't a lot separating those three teams.'

The key to advancing beyond the first round of the playoffs, according to Vandehey, is to get the team's offense jump-started.

'We just need to be a little more on with our hitting,' she said. 'We've been off lately and we've got to get things moving and grooving.'

Two straight Banks wins would put the Lady Braves in the state tournament, which begins Nov. 10 at Lane Community College in Eugene.