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Braves settle for sixth


Banks' outstanding volleyball season closes with a sixth-place finish at the Class 4A state tournament

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: ZACK PALMER - Banks volleyball players (from right) Hannah VanDomelen, Alyssa Chung, MaKenna Partain, Mary Schorn and Megan Bunn celebrate a point during the Class 4A state tournament.EUGENE — Not long ago, a sixth-place finish at the state tournament would have been a tremendous result for the Banks volleyball program.

Now the bar has been set higher.

“Of course we wanted more,” said Banks co-coach Diana Herb, whose teams finished second at the 2010 state tournament and third in each of the last two seasons.

“We always want more, but we told the girls that when they look back on the season, they should be proud of their accomplishments. There were no expectations at the beginning of the season that they’d even be at state, but the fact that they were there and they made it — you can’t look beyond that. It was a great season.”

Banks suffered a 27-29, 25-21, 20-25, 12-25 loss to Ridgeview on Saturday in the consolation bracket of the Class 4A state tournament at Lane Community College, closing out a promising season and relegating the Lady Braves to a sixth-place finish when they had their sights set much higher.

Banks (23-6) was practically invincible during the regular season, going undefeated in Cowapa League play without dropping a single set. The Braves lost only four matches all year, and they all came against fellow state tournament qualifiers — Ridgeview, Crook County, Sisters and Cascade.

In the unforgiving format of the state tournament, however, Banks saw its outstanding season unravel on Friday with a 11-25, 20-25, 25-21, 23-25 loss to Sisters in the quarterfinals, sending the Braves to the consolation bracket after just one match.

Banks rallied on Saturday morning, notching a breezy 25-19, 25-13, 25-21 victory against Philomath to stay alive, but Ridgeview ended the Braves’ season with a smothering effort in the tournament’s fourth-place match.

“I think going into the Sisters match, just mentally they let the whole big tournament thing affect their play,” Herb said. “Afterwards, I think they all knew that they let it get to them. (Friday) afternoon we had a team meeting and got their thoughts and talked about it more, and we said, ‘Just treat it like any other tournament. Just take one point at a time, one serve at a time, one pass at a time.’

“We told them to just take in the moment and have fun and go out with no regrets.”

The Lady Braves seemed to heed that advice in Saturday’s early-morning matchup against Philomath (23-9), storming to a three-set victory.

Hannah VanDomelen served Banks out to an early 7-1 lead in the first set, and the advatage grew to 18-5 before Philomath showed some life. The Warriors got as close as 20-15 before Megan Bunn smashed a kill and MaKenna Partain put two straight on the floor to set up game point at 24-19, and the Braves quickly ended the set.

Banks raced out to another early lead in the second set behind VanDomelen’s knuckling, left-handed serve, going ahead 7-2. Taylor Herb smacked an ace later in the frame to make it 19-10, and Partain once again set up game point with a kill from her outside hitter position. VanDomelen closed out the 25-13 victory with a kill from the back row.

The third set was back-and-forth early, with Banks taking its first lead at 10-9. VanDomelen served an ace to put Banks on top 12-9, and Partain went down the line for a kill to make it 18-13. Philomath got within two points in the late stages of the set, but Bunn had the final answer with a kill at the middle of the net to seal the victory and send Banks into the tournament’s fourth-place match.

Facing a gritty Ridgeview side, the Braves went to the brink in each of the first three sets before finally running out of gas in the fourth.

Banks fell behind 16-10 in the first set but fought back to tie things at 23-23 on a big kill by Bunn. Partain had three straight kills to stave off game point, but Ridgeview (22-6) was eventually able to pull out a 29-27 victory.

Another back-and-forth affair in the second set swung Banks’ way on a solo block and a kill by Bunn, which gave the Braves a 21-17 lead. Ridgeview got within two points late, but Bunn smashed another big kill to close out a 25-21 win.

The momentum finally started to shift in the third set, with Ridgeview building an early 12-6 lead. Banks rallied to tie the score at 15-15, but the Ravens pulled away down the stretch to secure a 25-20 victory that seemed to sap much of the enthusiasm on the Banks sideline.

The fourth set was merely a formality, with Ridgeview surging ahead 14-6 and eventually building a double-digit lead before ending the match with a 25-12 triumph.

“That last game we were hoping to be more of a battle, but the girls were playing hard and didn’t give up,” Herb said. “They felt better about how they played on Saturday than they did on Friday. I think overall they felt better.”

Friday’s three-set loss to Sisters (21-6) was certainly a bit disappointing, bouncing the Braves from state title contention a little more than an hour after the tournament began.

“That loss definitely stung,” Herb said. “I felt like they weren’t in their zone. The state tournament (environment) kind of got into their heads. It took them a while to settle in, and even then I didn’t feel like they played their best.

“I wish we could have given them a better match — more of a battle, win or lose. But Sisters is a really good team. It’s hard to put anything down on them.”

The Outlaws went on to finish third in the state with a four-set triumph over Hidden Valley on Saturday evening. Crook County continued its volleyball dynasty with a three-set sweep of Cascade in the finals, giving the Cowgirls their eighth consecutive state championship — four straight as a Class 5A school and now four in a row at the 4A level.

For Banks, which will return its entire roster next year except for seniors Taylor Herb and Molly Hammond, the future looks exceedingly bright with five straight state tournament appearances and back-to-back Cowapa League championships.

“I think that’s a good thing for next year — basically being able to pick up right where we left off,” Diana Herb said. “The girls are already talking about next year, not dwelling on what happened this year.

“All the girls made huge improvements this year, and now they’ve had that taste of state. Once you’ve been there, it’s sort of expected that you’ll get back there. I think the girls know they’re capable of it.”

And despite missing out on a top-three finish for the first time in four years, Herb said it was still an enjoyable tournament experience for the team.

“It was a fun ride for them,” she said. “Our biggest thing was just enjoying each other and having fun and going down playing hard. When they look back on this season, they have a lot to be proud of.”