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La Grande senior Kendall Kirkland sets a ball during a three-game sweep against Vale Thursday night. (Paul Harder/The Observer)
La Grande head coach Melinda Becker-Bisenius couldn’t have scripted a better senior night for her team.
The Tigers volleyball team closed out the regular season with a non-league win 25-20, 25-15, 25-20 against Vale Thursday, improving to 17-3 on the season.
But, it was the seniors that stood out.
“It’s the most complete game I’ve seen the team play in a while,” Becker-Bisenius said. “Vale is a very good team, and even though we swept them, it was a tight match. All the seniors came out and had a great night.”
The Tigers set the tone early following the senior festivities.
La Grande jumped out to a 10-3 lead, following an ace by junior Anna Grigsby.
Vale inched back into the game, trailing by two points, 22-20, when senior Cassidy Crites helped the Tigers pull away.
Crites had a kill that sent her to the service line, and she immediately picked up an ace.
“There were some jitters early on with the excitement of senior night,” Crites said. “But a few points into the match I didn’t really think about it.”
Junior Hanna Cashell finished off the opening set with a kill.
The Vikings hit the ball well, but the La Grande defense always found the right spot to pick up the attack.
“Defensively it was a great match,” Becker-Bisenius said. “Cassie (Brownell) and Brandy (Blackman) did a fantastic job. It was a great effort by everyone tonight, and that’s the momentum we wanted to end the season with.”
Crites, who helped her team win the first set, struck again, for match point. She took a perfect set from setter Kendall Kirland, and closed out the match.
“It’s great to pick up another win,” the senior said. “Kendall is so good at setting the ball in the right spot.”
Crites finished the game with six kills.
Kirkland had 21 assists and three ace serves.
Brownell and Blackman finished with 15 and 13 digs, respectively.
Grigsby led the team with 10 kills.
Crites, Kirkland, Shania Holpuch and Lilly Page will get to play in front of their home crowd at least one more time.
The Tigers will host an opening round in the state playoffs due to winning the Greater Oregon League with a 6-0 record, following the state play-in games Tuesday.
“We’re excited and ready to get that part of the season going,” Crites said. “And, it’s nice to be able to start at home. That always makes it easier.”
The final game of the season also marked the first time that the Tigers have been at full strength in a while.
Page had been out with a knee injury, and Kali Avila missed time with an illness. Page returned for
“We’re getting closer to being healthy,” Becker-Bisenius said. “We at least had everyone on the bench, and got all of our usual starters in the game. It’s perfect timing.”