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Falcons top Tigers, advance in the 4A playoffs

Banta believes her youthful team can return to the 4A Tournament

Due to a youthful lineup, the La Salle Prep Falcons have had some inconsistency in volleyball this fall.

But the Falcons have played well enough to reclaim the Tri-Valley Conference title that the Estacada Rangers took from them a year ago. The Falcons finished the TVC season with a 9-1 record, and they finished just ahead of the Rangers (8-2).

And they defeated Yamhill Carlton in three games last weekend, 25-14, 25-19, 25-22, and earned a Nov. 5 state-playoff match at Skyline champion Hidden Valley, with a berth in the Class 4A State Tournament on the line.

Hidden Valley enters the Nov. 5 match ranked sixth in the state, having gone 10-0 in league and 20-4 on the season. The Falcons are ranked 14th, with an overall record of 12-8.

'Hidden Valley will be a tough opponent,' said La Salle coach Liz Banta. 'But I think we're evenly matched. If we bring our 'A' game I do think we have a chance of getting to the state tournament. And, if we get there, I think we could get a trophy.'

The Falcons battled in last weekend's play-in game with Yamhill-Carlton. They started out slow in the first game, but rallied to a decisive 25-14 win.

'It was tied at 10-10, but then we took off,' said Banta. 'It was the best teamwork I've seen from them all season.'

After winning the second game 25-19, they trailed 14-22, before rallying to a win the third game 25-22, and the match.

Senior outside hitter Paula Cieszkowska served the final 10 points, serving the ball away from the Tigers' top players.

Cieszkowska and senior middle hitter Ali Brown have led the Falcon attack in league this season, averaging 2.5 and 2.4 kills per game respectively.

Freshman Meghan Studdard has averaged a team-high 2.8 digs per game. Sophomore Gaby Timmen has averaged 2.1 digs, and she's been the team leader in service aces.

Freshman Amanda Summers and junior Caitlon Vu have averaged close to four assists a game.

Gladstone volleyballers closed out the 2011 season strong, dispatching with Molalla in five games in their league final, 25-23, 24-26, 25-23, 23-25, 15-7.

Senior Keisha Hicks had seven kills in the match. Freshman Alicia Feb had five kills and six blocks.

Senior libero Amanda Curtis passed 96 times.

The Gladiators finished the conference season with a 2-8 record.

Gladstone coach Emily Smith commented on the season: 'As a team, we continually improved, which was our number one season goal.

'We experienced great leadership from our veteran players, which allowed for amazing growth with our very young team. Our two seniors, Keisha Hicks and Amanda Curtis, had impressive seasons and are hoping to continue their volleyball careers in college.'