Powder Valley’s Alexandra Colton celebrates after the Badgers win the tournament title Saturday. BRAD MOSHER - The Observer
It took five sets, but Powder Valley claimed the Old Oregon League district tournament crown Saturday.
Imbler, the only league team to win any sets against the Badgers this year, made it even tougher for Powder Valley to earn the title and a first-round bye in the state playoffs.
The Panthers opened the title fight with a 25-21 victory over the Lady Badgers, to take an early 1-0 lead.
The Badgers came back to win the next two games by identical 25-23 margins. But then Lady Panthers mounted a comeback of their own, rallying in the fourth game to claim a 25-19 win — forcing a fifth and deciding game.
But the defending OOL league champions hit the Panthers hard early to build up a 9-1 lead before claiming the win, 15-8.
According to Badger coach Lasa Baxter, it was a matter of telling the players that it was down to the fifth game if they would qualify for the bye and one home playoff game that went with the title.
The result was still the same, with the Badgers celebrating the win and Imbler’s team walking off the court with shocked expressions.
The Badgers (19-2) also finally claimed the top spot in the OSAA 1A volleyball poll.
The loss left Imbler in eighth place after Saturday’s tournament. Perrydale (23-1) is third, followed by Portland Lutheran (18-5) and Hosanna Christian (20-5). City Christian (15-5) and Condon/Wheeler /Arlington (17-3), just ahead of the Lady Panthers.
There were couple of crucial things in the final game that pulled out the win for Powder Valley, according to the Badgers’ coach. “They were hitting their serve placement well and that was moving the other team (Imbler) out of system. That moved their set behind the 10-foot line and that makes it more difficult for them to set.
“They’ve got great hitters on that team. What we were trying to do was make it more difficult for them to have good sets. They were getting sets, but they were not as good and it made it easy for us to play defense against them,” Baxter said.
“When things are working well, it helps to set up our offense.”
Smart decisions by Ali Abrego at the end in placing the ball helped to ice the win, Baxter said. “It was a mental change and a new mental focus at the end. That was good.”
Baxter also said that the tough match may have really helped to prepare her squad for the playoffs and the state tournament. “It never is a bad thing to come in and play that tough a competition before we go in (the playoffs). It prepares us for the state playoffs. It is a good thing.”
In the title game with Imbler, Jessica Pedro led the team with 32 kills and 21 digs, while Alexandra Colton had 46 assists and McKinsey Hampton had 29 serves. Abrego had 19 serves, 19 digs and 18 kills against Imbler.
“They knew it was do-or-die time,” Baxter said. “And they showed up to win.”
Earlier, against Pine Eagle, Abrego led the Badgers with 26 serves, 10 digs and 11 kills. Pedro finished with six serves, 12 digs and nine kills, while Hampton had 10 serves, five digs and three kills. Alexandra Colton finished with 20 assists against the Spartans.
According to Imbler coach Jennifer Teeter, it was exciting to push the Badgers to five games. Unfortunately, we dug ourselves a hole there to start game five. In those quick ones to 15, you can’t afford to do that. It just goes too quick.”
It was the Panthers’ ability to come from behind that helped to force a fifth game. “It was nice to be able to see us get on a roll at times and really do some things offensively against them that we weren’t able to do earlier in the season against them.”
Cove ousts Joseph in opener
The Badgers and Panthers made it to the finals Saturday by disposing of the rest of the league teams along the way.
Cove opened the tournament by handing Joseph a 3-1 loss (25-15,19-25,25-3,25-23), while Pine Eagle followed by handing Wallowa a 3-0 sweep that cleared the Cougars out of the tournament (25-13,25-15,
Powder Valley, handed Pine Eagle a 3-0 loss (25-8,25-12, 25-9), while Imbler handed Cove a 3-0 sweep (25-14,25-19,25-16) that dropped the Leopards into a third-place game with Pine Eagle.
After dropping the first game, by an 18-25 margin, the Leopards came back with a pair of wins (25-17 and 25-22).
But the Spartans rallied, handing Cove a 19-25 loss in the fourth game. The Leopards won the fifth, 15-3.
the fifth set.
Cove travels to Crane
The win and the third seed from the OOL in the playoffs will send the Leopards to Crane.
Cove will be taking a 13-8 record with them to face the 16th-ranked Lady Mustangs Wednesday on Halloween.
Crane finished the league season with a 9-1 record losing only to Adrian in High Desert League play.
The 12-8 Lady Mustangs also lost to Adrian in the tournament finals by a 3-1 margin Saturday.
Adrian opened with a 25-14 win before dropping the second match to Crane by a 25-20 margin.
Adrian came back with two straight wins (25-21 and 25-22) to claim the league’s top seed in the playoffs.
If Cove defeats Crane, then the Leopards will face the winner of the Monument/Dayville battle with Prospect Charter.
Panthers host Ione
Imbler will be hosting defending state champion Ione on Halloween in their first round playoff.
Ione got the third-seed from the Big Sky tournament and will bring a 10-12 record to Imbler.
The Cardinals are ranked 27th in the latest OSAA volleyball poll.
Ione beat Sherman 3-1 in the opening round of the district tournament, then lost to eventual champion Dufur by a3-1 margin.
The Cardinals earned the final playoff berth with a 3-0 sweep of South Wasco County for third place.
The Panthers may face second-ranked Dufur in the second round, if they beat Ione.
The Lady Rangers open their playoffs against Portland Waldorf after losing the tournament title championship to Condon/Wheeler/Arlington in five sets Saturday.