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Imblerís six seniors show off the hardware earned with a perfect season. The Panthers defeated Condon/Wheeler in the Class 1A state championship game. (NANCY CAMPBELL photo)
Panther seniors keep volleyball tradition going with Class 1A state title
Sitting in the stands four years ago, Imbler had a collection of players to keep its volleyball tradition churning.
It was 2009 and the Panthers were coming off back-to-back Class 1A state titles, defeating Griswold in straight sets to cap a 27-3 season.
Jacey Teeter, then an incoming freshman, said she and her soon to be teammates learned a lot from that experience.
“We saw their will to win,” Teeter said. “And to do everything it takes to be together and be a team. That’s what we strived for. We made sure that we didn’t have any drama on our team. We needed to stick together to achieve our goals.”
Powered by six seniors, Imbler would make a run at two state titles. Five of the six had been playing together since the fourth grade.
“You never know as a coach how a group is going to pan out,” Imbler head coach Jennifer Teeter said. “You could see they had the athletic ability, but it’s hard to gauge how that will translate on the court.”
Jacey Teeter said that the bond between group was strong.
“I think that’s definitely one of our advantages,” Teeter said. “We’ve been playing together for so long that we know what someone else is going to do before it happens. We played club to, and that just helped imprint each others styles in our minds.”
However, in the beginning, there were growing pains.
The Panthers went 14-14-1 overall and 4-6 in the Old Oregon League. A glimmer of things to come stood out in the league playoffs. Imbler knocked off Wallowa to earn a trip to the play-in round.
Imbler fell to Adrian, but the Panthers liked the taste of the playoffs.
Mills wasn’t part year two. She tore her ACL during summer league basketball and missed her sophomore volleyball season.
“Having to sit out was the worst feeling ever,” Mills said. “But, I do believe that having to sit out actually made me a better player and person. I learned a lot on the sideline.”
In the 2012 season things started to take shape.
The Panthers started the season 10-1, falling to Dufur in three sets. The next game marked the first of four meetings that season against Powder Valley.
Imbler dropped two regular season meetings against the Badgers in four sets. But the pattern of progession continued with the group. The Panthers couldn’t get over the hump in the OOL tournament championship, falling in five games.
The Panthers cruised to the state title game, dropping one set along the way.
But standing before them were the Badgers one more time. And, again, Imbler just couldn’t get over the last hurdle.
“I think we learned from that experience,” Emily Bingaman said. “Our ability to fight so hard for what we wanted and stepping up our game when we knew we needed to. “We challenged them and learned how good to play our game of volleyball the best way we can play it, and leaving everything out on the court. It taught us how to step up and fight I think.”
Headed into the volleyball offseason, the Panthers had one thing one their minds — getting better.
“We wanted to keep improving,” Ally Fullerton said. “Our experience against (Powder Valley) motivated us, and we wanted it to end differently this year.”
The light bulb clicked that we weren’t going to go to a fifth set again,” Teeter said. “We just wanted to get it done and we knew that we could. Everything we do in practice each day helped us finish that game out.”
“We were the underdogs headed into the state tournament,” “We realized that we could win it though. Not going into the tournament No. 1 gave us that more motivation to show people that we were No. 1.”
“I think in that sense we play better,” Teeter said. “We don’t judge whether we think a team is good or bad. We just focus on our game and what we can do.”
“Good experience for them, It should help prepare them for the seasons ahead.
It’s nice to know that they helped prepare us, and we prepared them,” Teeter said. “It’s nice to know that they can carry on the legacy because they know what it takes.”