TIGER SPIKERS HEAD FOR STATE
By Joe Sova
La Grande is in the same situation it was in on the volleyball court at this time last season. The Tigers were preparing for pool play in the OSAA 3A State Championships. But they want to take their game to the next dimension and vie for state honors Saturday.
The Tigers, who are in Pool 4, are matched against Sisters at 3 p.m. Friday at Lane Community College in Eugene, followed by matches against Phoenix at 5 p.m. and Rainier at 7 p.m. Based on records, and head-to-head competition, the top two in each of the four pools advance to bracket play Saturday. Matches during the regular season were best three-of five, but matches at state are all best two-of-three. That will put more of a premium on winning the first game of each match.
Head coach Teresa Dowdy takes another La Grande team to state. Her young squad finished third in 3A two years ago, but the Tigers failed to qualify for bracket play last season - largely due to being in a very tough pool.
"We've been focusing on going pretty intense," Dowdy said, using shorter practices with game situations. "We're pretty inexperienced at the state tournament, but they've been playing together as a team for a long time."
The Tigers coming off a first-round victory over Junction City are led by senior Kathryn Ely, who will play in her third state tourney. She is this year's Greater Oregon League most valuable player and her leadership will be needed in Eugene.
"You never know what's going to happen at a state tournament. I think that they're mentally tough and physically strong," Dowdy said of her team. "It's really anybody's game once you get to state. Volleyball is so unpredictable depending on the night and the kid ... You have to make adjustments as the game goes along."
Dowdy said she has seen tape on Phoenix, Sisters and Rainier. Phoenix went unbeaten in the Skyline League, and Capital is the top team from the Capital League.
There is no question the Tigers have set their sights quite high.
"Our goal, to start, is to get out of pool play," Dowdy said, "and then see which team is ready to play on Saturday. I'm optimistic that it'll be our kids.
"I feel good about it. We're in a good pool. Our kids are pretty calm. I don't think they're overconfident, but I think they're prepared."