Forest Grove girls are fighting for state playoff positioning this season

With several matches still remaining in 2013, this much can already be said about the Forest Grove volleyball squad: the Lady Vikings are considerably improved compared with where they were last year.

Heading into Tuesday’s senior night matchup with league-leading Newberg, Forest Grove had posted a 7-9 overall record and had gone 5-6 in Pacific Conference play to slot into fifth place behind the Tigers, McMinnville, Tigard and Glencoe.

Notably, the Vikings have already matched the win total of their 2012 counterparts (7-14, 4-10) — in five fewer matches — and have eclipsed them in terms of league victories. Forest Grove finished tied for sixth place in the Pacific a year ago.

But as coach Nicole Miles points out, with more success comes more expectations.

“Once you get to one goal and reach one goal that you’ve set for yourself, you have to reevaluate,” Miles explained. “And so we definitely have done that. Once we reached our goal of having a better record than last year, we had to reevaluate what our overall goals were for the season.

“And definitely with that loss against Glencoe, we had to take a step back as a group and kind of refocus. The seniors are definitely wanting to make their last few weeks, essentially, memorable and go out and really just be satisfied with how they play.”

The Glencoe match last Tuesday that Miles referenced was the team’s only contest last week.

The Vikings jumped to an early advantage, taking the first set 25-21, but the Crimson Tide found their rhythm and won the next three sets to edge one match ahead of Forest Grove in the conference standings.

“We went in with a game plan,” Miles said. “We executed in the first set, and then we just couldn’t stay disciplined enough to make the adjustments.”

The squad has spent the past week trying to regain its earlier form, when the Lady Vikings started league play with four victories in six tries.

Though eight seniors dot this year’s roster, Miles pointed out the play of one of the team’s four juniors in Bryanna Hanson. She also noted that senior setter Amber Kolln has excelled in steering the team this fall, and that senior middle Madi Andresen has been coming on with her blocking and block timing in recent weeks.

That could prove handy in the homestretch of the season. After the Newberg match on Tuesday (results not available at press deadline), Forest Grove rounds out its conference slate with road matches at winless Hillsboro and at Tigard, which entered this week at third place in the league. In the teams’ first go-round this season, Forest Grove took a two-set lead before the Tigers rallied for a 3-2 victory.

But with several contests still remaining, including a nonleague match at Aloha on Oct. 24 and — at the very least — a state play-in game, this year’s team has the chance to create more highlights and send its eight seniors out on a high note.

“Where we are this year compared to where we ended last year, we have just improved by leaps and bounds,” Miles said. “But again, the bar is always set a little bit higher at that point, once you know what they’re capable of.

“(What) I’m trying to do is hold them to the standard that they’ve set for themselves, and then for them to ultimately reach the goals that they have put in place for themselves for the season. That’s kind of what our focus is right now.”

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