Another trophy run in the books, the Ashland High volleyball team gathered in a locker room at Liberty High School Saturday and reflected upon the season that was.
HILLSBORO — Another trophy run in the books, the Ashland High volleyball team gathered in a locker room at Liberty High School Saturday and reflected upon the season that was.
"We talked about how well we played, how great it was to end with a win, leave with a bang," said outside hitter Asia Kane, fighting back tears as one of the team's five seniors. "And all the juniors addressed the seniors and said how much they were going to miss us. Everyone talked about how much they love each other and how great a season it was overall."
"Friends on other teams, they say that their teams aren't that close, but Ashland volleyball teams are always close," added senior setter Kiley Pinder. "They love each other so much and we have so much passion for the game and I just think that that makes us a whole different breed of volleyball players."
The second-ranked Grizzlies certainly were a different breed Saturday, spiking, blocking and digging their way to a pair of straight-game wins over first Crescent Valley and later Thurston to snare the fourth-place trophy at the OSAA Class 5A state tournament.
Ashland's methodical 25-18, 25-14, 25-12 win over the Colts in the fourth-place match helped take the sting away from the Grizzlies' painful quarterfinal loss to West Albany Friday and clinched Ashland's fourth straight top-four finish. The Ashland program now owns eight state trophies overall dating back to 1988.
The Grizzlies (23-12-1) left little doubt against the overmatched Colts, who lost to Summit in the quarterfinals before edging Liberty in the consolation semifinals. Ashland rolled to leads of 21-13 in Game 2 and 20-9 in Game 3. It was briefly challenged in the opening game before finishing on an 8-3 run capped by a Taylor Hartrick spike to the floor.
Kane finished with 11 kills, four blocks and three aces to wrap up a fantastic tournament — she was Ashland's lone all-tournament selection with a second-team nod — and Pinder added 31 assists. Defensive specialists Elizabeth Westmoreland and Monica Palmesano also played key roles with three aces and four digs, respectively, as the Grizziles' back row easily deflected the Colts' attack.
"Obviously it wasn't what we hoped we were going for, but we knew that that was it and we wanted it," said Pinder, referring to the Grizzlies' state championship aspirations heading into the tournament. "I think we wanted it a lot more than Thurston did and it showed. We had a lot more passion for the game in that match."
Ashland head coach Jodee Scott said that it wasn't just about winning for the Grizzlies.
"They wanted to go out really strong and leave no doubt that they're a great volleyball team that deserves that fourth place trophy," Scott said.
Ashland was equally on target in the early match, a slightly more competitive 25-18, 25-19, 26-24 Grizzly victory over the sixth-ranked Raiders.
Kane had team highs in both kills (13) and digs (23), Pinder added 11 digs and 22 assists and Westmoreland and Palmesano combined for 15 digs to upend a Crescent Valley team that won a five-game thriller over Liberty earlier in the day.
The season-ending rout allowed the Grizzlies to finish ahead of their quarterfinal ouster, West Albany, which flamed out after beating Ashland and wound up with the fifth-place trophy. Top-ranked Crook County won its third straight state title by beating Mountain View 25-18, 25-19, 23-25, 25-13 in the finals, and Summit took third with its five-game win over West Albany.
Graduating off Ashland's third straight Southern Sky Conference championship team will be Kane, Pinder, middle blocker Taylor Hartrick, outside hitter Koko Petitt and right side Amanda Good, who had four blocks against Thurston.
After beating the Colts, those seniors took turns giving advice to their younger teammates.
"There's nothing like perspective that comes with knowing you're not going to play another game in an Ashland grizzly uniform," Scott said. "And so it's just a really beautiful thing when they get to talk to each other and say those things, especially in an emotional time at the state tournament."
"It was sad," Pinder added. "We have the rest of the school year with everybody, but it's still not going to be the same. We see each other every single day at practice, so we're not going to see each other every single day and have that connection. But we'll still always know that we're always going to be a family no matter what. We love each other so much."
Sports editor Joe Zavala can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or firstname.lastname@example.org