Lady Braves looking for their third straight 4A state tourney appearance
by: Chase Allgood Banks senior Chelsie Bunn (6) makes a pass while teammate Melissa Masters looks on during last Tuesday’s 25-21, 25-21, 25-22 victory over Cowapa League rival Astoria.

Banks volleyball coach Suzanne Alley knows that if her team plays to its capabilities, the Lady Braves can beat anyone in the state.

That's good knowledge to have with the Class 4A state playoffs starting this week.

Banks played its most complete match of the season last Tuesday in its regular-season finale against Astoria, beating the rival Fishermen 25-21, 25-21, 25-22 to cap a second-place finish in the Cowapa League this year. That earned the Braves a home match on Saturday in the play-in round of the postseason, where they overcame an up-and-down performance to dispatch Madras in four sets, 25-11, 23-25, 25-15, 25-23.

That victory put Banks in position to earn its third straight trip to the Class 4A state tournament, which begins on Nov. 11 in Eugene.

'(Madras) was pretty good. We had some conflicting scouting reports, so we didn't really know what we were going to face,' Alley said. 'But we managed to pull it out, so now we'll host Estacada. We've played them twice and beat them twice this season, but it's not always easy to beat a team three times.'

Banks will host Estacada at 3 p.m. on Saturday, with the winner earning a spot in the eight-team state tournament. Banks finished second in the state last year and eighth in 2009.

'It's always harder to play when you're the team that's supposed to go back,' Alley said. 'We'll probably be favored, so Estacada won't really have anything to lose.'

With a tournament bid on the line, Alley said she feels good about the way her team is playing.

'Against Astoria we played probably the best match we've played all season,' she said. 'Even though the scores were close, I felt like we had control the entire match.'

Middle blocker Abby Hardie had 13 kills and 12 blocks in the win over Astoria, while outside hitter Melissa Masters had six kills and Jennifer Hilger added five.

'(Abby) really carried the lion's share of the offense,' Alley said. 'Her blocking was amazing. She just had a monster night.'

Masters led the way against Madras with 11 kills, and Hilger finished with eight.

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