Ready for all seasons


Valley Catholics Rebecca Baglai is the Valley Times Female Athlete of the Year

BEAVERTON - Competitive sports are now growing steadily smaller in the rear view mirror of Rebecca Baglai's life.

But during her high school career – which she finished at Valley Catholic earlier this month – Baglai left absolutely nothing behind.

Baglai, who will attend Gonzaga University in the fall, put together a senior season that will long be remembered at VC. She led her Valley Catholic volleyball team to a third straight state tournament trophy, she lifted her Valiant basketball team to the best finish in school history, and then she won even more honors as one of the top players on Valley's softball team. By year's end, Baglai had won first-team, all-league honors in each of her three sports, and provided quiet, consistent leadership that was valued equally by her teammates and coaches.

For all those reasons, Baglai has been named the 2012 Beaverton Valley Times Female Athlete of the Year. The award is given annually to the top graduated senior from the seven high schools covered by the Valley Times.

Despite all her personal success, there were indeed challenges aplenty for Baglai in her last time around at Valley Catholic. Baglai, 18 and a Forest Grove resident, had to take on new and expanded leadership roles as a senior, had to push herself to do even more in each of her three seasons, and had to deal with – for the first time – playing on a losing team.

She kicked off her senior season with a stellar effort in volleyball, stepping in at middle blocker to replace graduated star Sam Kemper, and there, Baglai just flat got it done. She helped the Valiants battle to second place in Lewis & Clark League play, lifted VC past Warrenton in the L&C league playoffs, and then past St. Mary's in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs to earn Valley Catholic a berth in the 3A state tournament.

"I kind of wondered how it would work with Sam gone," Baglai said. "We knew that (Kemper's departure) would hurt us, but I don't think we ever doubted we'd get to state."

The Valiants dropped their opener there, falling to Blanchet Catholic 3-1 in the first round at Lane Community College, bounced back to sweep Cascade Christian, then fell to Santiam Christian 3-2 and finished sixth.

"I was disappointed that we lost to Blanchet at state," Baglai said. "But I was really proud of how we were as a team. My junior year, we had great players but we weren't the best team. This year, especially off the court, we were a much more tight-knit group. The girls got a lot closer."

Further, Baglai learned a lot about herself, about her role as a leader, and about the nature of leadership during her senior volleyball season.

"I'm a good leader, but I lead by example," she said. "I've never been good at (telling other players what to do), but I was having fun in the middle and that helped me take the lead."

Basketball season offered challenges anew as the Valiants went about the business of returning to the Class 3A state tournament for the first time in three years, and again, Baglai was right in the middle of it.

This time, VC rolled to victory in Lewis & Clark League play, losing just once in 16 league games, the routing Gervais to win a spot in the 3A state tournament at North Bend and Marshfield high schools.

"There was a lot of talk that we needed to work hard to get there, but that wasn't really the focus," Baglai said. "I loved this basketball season because, more than any other, we really took it one game at a time. We really worked at it, so when we got there, we really knew we belonged."

The Valiants showed it too, muscling past Blanchet in round one at state, then hammering L&C foe Rainier in the state semifinals to earn just the second state championship berth in school history. The state title, however, remained elusive – VC saw two of its starters go down with injuries early in the second quarter against Vale, shot just .195 from the floor and lost the championship 43-29.

Still, Baglai took away nothing but positives from her experiences there.

"We grew a lot from last year," she said. "Before, we kind of understood (what our coaches wanted us to do) but we didn't really believe in it. This year, it all just came together."

And that set up what may have been the most taxing season of Baglai's high school career. After her first two senior-season teams amassed a combined record of 52-10, her senior softball season marked a huge departure.

The Valiants, operating under their third coach in three seasons, struggling with an inexperienced lineup and battling weather that allowed the team to play just three games in the first month, went just 5-11 overall and finished just fifth in the six-team L&C.

Baglai, who finished her year as a first-team all-league selection, had her own struggles too, moving to pitcher and away from her beloved center field spot to help the team.

"There was very little in the way of expectations," Baglai said. "Losing (graduated seniors Hana Wright and Kindra Mills), getting a new coach and then not knowing if we'd even have enough girls for a team was tough."

But even there, Baglai and the Valiants had their moments, putting together a three-game winning streak at the end of the year, one of those a victory over Corbett that brought VC within one game of a state playoff berth. While that state playoff berth didn't materialize, there were still a lot of valuable lessons Baglai took away from her final high school campaign.

"I learned so much from being on a team that didn't win," she said. "It helped me learn about what kind of player I am. The argument I kept having in my head was 'My team deserves better than that. If I'm not giving my best, why not?'"