Tualatin reaches its goal of earning an automatic Class 6A bid
by: Vern Uyetake SMACK IT – Tualatin senior Hannah Smargiassi goes up to hit the ball during the Wolves state playoff match at West Linn.

WEST LINN - The Tualatin High School volleyball team reached its goal of finishing in the top three in the final Pacific Con-ference standings, earning an auto-matic bid go the Class 6A state playoffs.

And, when they got to the play-offs, the Timberwolves found them-selves facing a very formidable, tradition-rich team.

But that didn't stop Tualatin from battling to the end.

The Wolves saw their season come to a close with a 25-22, 25-20. 25-12 loss to West Linn in a Class 6A state playoff first-round match played Nov. 2 at West Linn High School.

'Our girls were very motivated coming into our match-up against West Linn, which clearly showed at the level of intensity and focus at our practices leading up to Wednesday night,' Tualatin coach Ben Stern said. 'Both teams scored aggressive defense and strong transition offense, and it was a very entertaining match. We went point-for-point in the first two sets, up until about 20, when West Linn's middle offense stepped up to score some vital points.'

With the win, West Linn, which earned a share of the Three Rivers League championship this season, improved to 15-9 on the season at that point. The Lions also advanced to the second round of the state playoffs, where they downed Lake Oswego 23-25, 25-22, 25-13, 25-22, to earn a berth in the eight-team Class 6A state tournament, which starts Friday at Liberty High School.

Tualatin, the No. 3 team out of the Pacific Conference, finished its season with a final overall record of 11-8.

'We are fairly satisfied with our team's performance this season,' Stern said. 'We met our goal of being a top three team in the league, and we felt proud that we came into our playoff game with an aggres-sive mentality to challenge a team from the toughest league in the state. The players are proud of their body-of-work this season, and the individual efforts in both games and practices have been very impres-sive.'

In last week's state playoff match at West Linn, Tualatin had a strong night passing the ball, especially by junior Maddi Powelson and sophomore Beth Fanger, who also excelled in a busy night in the deep court.

The Wolves also got a strong performance from junior outside hitter Claire Bange.

'She had her best offensive game of the season, taking tips and controlling swings, turning them into kills,' Stern said. 'We knew that they are a highly offensive team with strong middles and outsides, so our game-plan was to take their middle offense out of the game with tough serving and hitting. We felt that although they might have an offensive and blocking advan-tage over us, we could win the serving and serve receive battle.'

The loss marked the final high school volleyball match for Tualatin seniors Jennifer Stein, Jamie Kahn, Hannah Smargiassi, Jordyn Skinner, Katie Nolan and Megan Kleven.

The Wolves should have a strong group of returning players back next season.

'Looking to next season, we are very excited to see how some of our younger players improve through-out the offseason,' Stern said. 'Playing club volleyball is going to make the difference for so many of our young players, and everyone is excited to see who can step up to the next level. We lose all three of our senior middles, leaving a large role for some of our up-and-comers to focus on. We also lose our senior-transfer setter, Katie Nolan, and look to our younger club players to improve in the off-season in order to fill that role.

'We are very excited about the youth that we are returning next season, as well as for our strong group of juniors to come into their senior season with a few years of experience together. We hope to see our program, as well as our league, continue to improve so that we can go to the next level and represent the Pacific Conference in OSAA state playoffs.'

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