Century players are determined to improve upon last year's state playoff performance

Last season the Century volleyball team won the Pacific Conference with an undefeated record and made it into the Sweet 16 of the OSAA Class 6A playoffs. Returning all but one player, the Jaguars entered this season with high expectations.

“We expected to be at least equivalent to last year’s team and last year’s team was 14-0 and was undefeated in league,” Century coach Jaime Lentz says. “We were expecting at least that level.”

So far, mission accomplished. The Jaguars have cruised to an 11-0 league record heading into the final three matches of the season.

“It goes back to experience,” Lentz says. “We have a lot of girls who have a lot of experience at this point. We have a lot of returning players. That gives us an edge as far as team chemistry and knowing what to expect from each other.

“They’ve learned all the mental stuff that goes through the game of volleyball. They’re very focused. They’re very focused on the end of season goals. They have specific goals as far as league and where they want to be in state. They’re very good at staying focused in practice and making sure that they’re preparing to meet those goals. League gives them an opportunity to practice those things that they need to work on for the end of the season.”

The Jaguars took it upon themselves to play a difficult non-league schedule. One of the highlights of Century’s season so far is winning the Glencoe Tournament.

“This season they played in the Glencoe Tournament and they played phenomenally and they won that tournament,” Lentz says. “They also knew that they had to win that tournament in order to keep or improve their power rankings. That’s a lot of pressure on them which is something they definitely needed at this point in the season and they rose to the challenge.”

Century did take its lumps during non-conference play, losing matches to Gresham, Roseburg, Jesuit and Tigard. But, it helped the Jaguars (19-4 overall) grow and develop the mental fortitude they have needed to be on top of the Pacific Conference. The tough non-league schedule has also helped Century in terms of its power rankings in the state.

“We knew that with the power ranking system that you have to play really good opponents to get points,” Lentz says. “And of course that’s going to prepare us for league. It’s going to give us opportunities to find out what our weaknesses are and give us an opportunity for them not to be our weaknesses anymore.”

It has become fairly obvious to anyone in the Pacific Conference who has been matched up with Century that the team’s weaknesses are relatively few. But, Lentz says that Century “can always improve in our blocking. That’s something that we work a lot on.”

Some of the players who have been making an impact for Century are four-year starters Jordan Deming and Raquel Mellick. Senior Jamie Thompson and sophomore Kyla Miltante-Amper have also made their presence felt.

“We are a really balanced team,” Lentz says. “We have about three girls who can really put the ball away. We can dig and pass and we have a lot of players who can play all the way around. We’re a very balanced team.”

With the playoffs fast approaching, Lentz is pleased with how her team is starting to come together.

“They’re in a great position,” Lentz says. “As the season has been going on there has been some things that we’re back and fourth on. They’re exactly where they need to be going into the playoffs.”

When Century reaches the playoffs, the Jaguars will remember the heartbreak that they experienced a year ago.

“Last year we were two points away from making it into the Elite Eight,” Lentz says. “We ended up playing Sprague all the way down to Game 5 and we lost by two. That was a heart-wrenching loss for them and something that they’re not forgetting.”

With that memory playing in their minds, Lentz says that Century is determined to go even deeper into the playoffs than the Jaguars did last season.

“We have a goal of making it into the Elite Eight,” Lentz says. “Having that memory and knowing that they were so close and then having that extra year of experience playing together and becoming more mature, they have that goal of making it to the Elite Eight.”

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