The Imbler volleyball team celebrates after winning the league tournament title Saturday. (Paul Harder/The Observer)
The Imbler volleyball team continued to check off goals made before the season started.
The Panthers breezed through the Old Oregon League district tournament with a pair of sweeps Saturday at La Grande High School.
“It started after we lost last year in the state championship game,” junior Emma Bowers said. “Our goal was to get back here, but we took it a set at a time.
“Now it’s on to the next goal.”
Imbler defeated Powder Valley 25-15, 25-10, 25-16 to move into the tournament championship game against Wallowa.
The Cougars battled before being dispatched 25-11, 25-18, 25-20.
“Wallowa is a team that’s gotten better over the season,” Imbler head coach Jennifer Teeter said. “They have a very tough service game. It can disrupt the offense, and it got us a few times tonight. We knew they were going to come out and play hard.”
Wallowa’s Krystin Young tried to keep her team in the match in the second set, reeling off three straight ace serves.
Imbler’s attack proved to be too much for Wallowa, as Maila Mills closed out the match with back-to-back kills.
The senior finished the match with a team-best 17 kills on 33 attempts.
Wallowa went point-for-point with Imbler in the final set. The Cougars fought off match point three times, before freshman Hannah Wilhelm delivered the final point for the Panthers, her third of the match.
Bowers finished with 11 kills.
She said it’s the team’s close bond that has fueled the 21-0 season.
“We’re crazy together,” Bowers said. “We all get along. That’s a big thing on a volleyball team. We’re together off the court, which makes it easier to be together on the court. I know what my teammates are thinking, and they know what I’m thinking.”
Imbler’s Jacey Teeter finished with team-highs in digs with 18 and assists with 36.
Mills and Wilhelm added 15 and 12 digs, respectively.
Imbler can now sit and watch the opening round of the state play-in games Wednesday. The Panthers will host a second round game Friday or Saturday to attempt to advance to the final eight.
“We’re so ready for the state tournament to get going,” Bowers said. “Our goal is to win one more game at the tournament than we did last year.”
Imbler lost to the Powder Valley Badgers in the state championship in five sets last season.
Cove came into the Old Oregon League volleyball tournament as the second seed, but left as the third seed, by a whisker.
The Leopards needed fives sets to get past Powder Valley 15-25, 25-23, 25-22, 23-25, 15-7 Saturday at La Grande High School., clinching the final spot from the league into the state tournament.
Wallowa knocked off Cove in the opening match of the tournament 13-25, 25-14, 25-23, 10-25, 15-13.
“It was a season-chaning moment, losing to Wallowa,” Leopards head coach Darcy Carrerio said. “It’s the difference between opening the playoffs at home and going on the road.
“We just cane out too stagnant on defense. I think we may have taken that match for granted.
Strong serving by Hannah Hulse paced the Leopards in the final set against Powder Valley. The junior served eight-straight points, including three service aces. Hulse finished with seven aces in the match.
Cove will travel to Dufur for the opening play-in game Wednesday. A start time was not available by press time.