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Banks maintains league stranglehold

Braves get off to a slow start on Senior Night but still sweep past Tillamook in Cowapa League play

Senior Night is always emotional — perhaps even more so when you have six seniors on the team.

Whether it was due to the lengthy and poignant pregame ceremony or some other factor, the Banks volleyball team got off to a bit of a slow start last Wednesday against fellow Class 4A top-10 side Tillamook.

But the Braves rallied midway through the first game to take a 25-22 win and then rolled 25-9 and 25-15 in the second and third games to sweep the Cheesemakers.NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: KENT FRASURE
 - Banks senior MaKenna Partain goes up for a spike during last Thursday's three-set sweep of Tillamook in Cowapa League action.

“We started off slow the first game,” Banks co-coach Diana Herb said. “I think the second game they started getting more in their groove and starting to take care of the little things, the controllables on their side. We’re still learning, still have a ways to go.”

With the victory, the Braves improved to 18-2 overall and 8-0 in Cowapa League play, ever closer to a possible fourth consecutive conference title. Tillamook dropped to 10-7 and 4-4.

Before the action got going, Banks’ seniors — Megan Bunn, Nikayla Doane, Brittany Janssens, MaKenna Partain, Laysia Rosa and Kiana Yokoi — all walked out one by one onto the court, where they were greeted by family members, and some words from each player were read over the public address system.

“It seems like it took forever to get here,” said Partain, a four-year varsity player, after the match. “We were all just sitting there. Me and Megan were looking at each other. I was like, ‘We were the babies and now we we’re the seniors.’ We were all bawling. That was like the best part.

“It’s such a fun group of seniors. It’s so close-knit. That’s my favorite part about it.”

Those words from the seniors induced a number of laughs and smiles, as well as some tears. So when play finally started, the Braves took a bit to find their footing.

“I’m sure that factors into it a lot,” Herb said. “It’s kind of hard. You tell them to come out and still play, but that’s going to factor in.”

In fact, the Cheesemakers did lead pretty much the first half of the first game, though never by more than a few points. Partain tied the score at 12-12 with a cross-court kill and the home team took the lead when Tillamook’s Anna Oldenkamp dumped the ball into the net and Bunn followed up with an untouched ace for a 14-12 advantage.

But the Cheesemakers hung around, tying the score at 14-all and lurking within a few points the rest of the way. Banks took its largest lead when a Doane block and a Partain ace made the score 24-20, and three points later, Bunn coaxed down a soft knuckler for a kill and the Game 1 win.

After that, the Braves rolled. At 4-4 in the second set, Banks closed on a 21-5 run, getting a number of points from Partain in particular.

“Definitely a slow start, but I think we picked it up,” said Janssens, a setter. “Second set, we came out, we just got it done.”

In the final game, Tillamook got within 15-11 on a kill by Jordan Zweifel, but Bunn came up with a kill and a block and the Cheesemakers’ Makayla Hopkes hit a ball long to push the lead to 18-11.

The Braves then closed out the match on a 7-4 run, capped by a tip from Madelynn Standley and the final point on Partain’s serve.

The result against the Cheesemakers set up an important showdown on Tuesday at Valley Catholic, a match Herb was anticipating.

The Valiants entered the contest at 7-1 in Cowapa play, just one match behind Banks in the league standings. A victory would guarantee the Braves the league title, while a Valley Catholic win would force a tie in the standings with one contest to play. (Results were unavailable at press deadline.)

It was to be the second meeting in four days between the two teams, which met on Saturday in the final of the Seaside Tournament. Valley Catholic took the first game 25-23, but Banks rallied for 25-19 and 15-7 wins in the second and third sets to come from behind.

The Braves’ final Cowapa match of 2015 is scheduled for Thursday at Scappoose. On Saturday, they round out their regular season schedule at the Philomath Tournament.

“I think we’re at a really good place,” Partain said. “I know we have a lot to improve on, which is really good, and so we’re hoping that we’re going to peak right at the right time.”


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