La Grande Houston

La Grande’s Felicity Houston dives to try and return a serve during the Tigers’ match against Banks Saturday. La Grande lost in three sets, and saw its season end. 

There won’t be a return trip to the 4A state tournament for the La Grande Tigers volleyball team. 

La Grande saw its bid for a second-straight state quarterfinal berth end at home Saturday as the visiting Banks Braves swept the Tigers, 25-22, 25-13, 26-24, in a first-round playoff match at La Grande High School.

“We knew they were really comparable to us and we were going to have to play our game,” head coach Melinda Becker-Bisenius said. “We had a great year. It’s obviously not how we wanted it to end, not being down at the final eight, but that’s what we’ve got.”

Banks scored five straight points to take the lead in the first set, going ahead 16-11 on an ace by Emma White. La Grande pulled to within two on two occasions, including at 23-21 on an ace by Felicity Houston, but Haylee Jackson had a kill to end the set for the early lead.

Strong serving and a tough attack helped Banks take a two-set lead after dominating the second. Three straight aces by Halle Vandomelen gave the Braves the lead for good. Three kills by Noel Herb helped push the lead to eight, and she added two more aces for a 21-11 lead.

“We knew they were going to have a strong attack,” Becker-Bisenius said. “That short ball (on the serve) we struggled with in the second game. We made some adjustments in the third game.”

La Grande built a sizable third-set lead as it tried to pull off what it did in the playoffs a year ago against Marshfield — rally for a win after dropping the first two sets. A kill by Presley Justice and a block by Kenzie Williams gave the Tigers a 12-7 lead. Williams had a kill later for a 15-9 lead.

Banks rallied and eventually pulled ahead, 21-20, on a kill by Jackson. A Jayce Seavert kill, a tip kill and an ace by Williams helped La Grande regain the lead, and Seavert’s 10th kill put the Tigers up 24-23 and just one point from extending the match.

But Banks scored the final three points, winning the match on a kill by Izzy Applebee.

“We didn’t just roll over and let them get us after that second game. We came out and battled,” Becker-Bisenius said.

In the end, though, the team was denied its goal of a second-straight state tournament berth.

“I like to win more than anybody, and it’s disappointing when you don’t, but I’m still really proud of my kids,” Becker-Bisenius said. “I felt like they did the things I asked them to and executed the game plan. There were some little things and some little rallies that (kept us from getting) the momentum. That made it hard.”

Seavert led the Tigers with her 10 kills and added 15 digs. Josie Reagan added four kills, and Justice had three kills and 13 digs. Both Jacie Howton and Williams had 10 assists. Grace Neer had three kills and three blocks, and Houston had 15 digs.

The Tigers finish with an overall record of 19-6 and will lose seven seniors. 


East Region Sports Editor

Ronald's primary beats are Eastern Oregon University, La Grande High School and the other eight high schools of Union and Wallowa counties. As an avid sports fan, he is primarily reading about or watching sports when he isn't covering a game.

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