The Grant Union Prospector volleyball team finished their season in second place at Saturday’s OSAA 2A State Championship title game, falling in a tight 3-2 battle against the Portland Christian Royals.
Grant Union’s uphill climb at the tournament, held at Ridgeview High School in Redmond, included victories over the Coquille Red Devils and the Central Linn Cobras.
“Opening with Coquille was a good indicator of how intense the tournament was going to be for us,” said Grant Union head coach Ali Abrego. “When you get to Redmond, every team is of state champion caliber.”
She believed Coquille should have been ranked higher, but her team gave a solid performance Friday, sweeping with scores of 27-25, 25-21 and 27-25.
The pressure increased as the Prospectors faced Central Linn Friday night in the semifinal round, Grant Union winning 22-25, 25-14, 25-14 and 25-19.
“Going into that game, I really tried to keep my girls focused on the end goal, which was to play Saturday night,” Abrego said. “These girls worked incredibly hard to eliminate our own mistakes and make it to the championship match on Saturday night.”
Portland Christian entered the tournament as the No. 4 team and beat No. 1 Kennedy 3-2 on their way to the championship game.
The Royals defeated Grant Union 28-26, 23-25, 25-11, 24-26 and 15-13.
With Prospector Hailie Wright up to serve in the final set, Grant Union earned their first 3 points off kills from Brockway, Hutchison and Brockway again.
The teams kept within a 3-point margin of each other the rest of the way.
After tying the score 8-8, Portland Christian took a slim lead. Grant Union, down 12-9, started a comeback.
With Prospector Aidan Broemeling serving, Hailie Wright made two consecutive kills from Alcie Moore to tie the score 12-12.
The Royals got the ball back, and Brockway slammed a kill to make it 13-13.
Portland Christian’s Simone Gordon made the final two kills to secure the win. Gordon, 6-foot-2, was a force for the Royals with 29 kills, one ace and four blocks in the five sets.
Prospector Kaylee Wright led Grant Union in the match with 13 kills and two aces, followed by Hailie Wright with 12 kills and one ace. Sydney Brockway had nine kills, four aces and one block, and Trinity Hutchison had eight kills and two blocks.
“We played our hearts out,” said Kaylee Wright.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” she said. “We had to work for those last points, and we were working hard all year for those last points. There is nothing we shouldn’t be proud of.”
Brockway said they gave their best effort and said her favorite memory from the tournament would simply be playing volleyball with her friends.
“It’s always exciting playing at the tournament, and it’s a fun experience,” she said.
Broemeling agreed about the excitement of the tournament.
“I love my team — we played hard,” she said.
Hailie Wright said the team improved throughout the season.
“I’m glad we made it to the tournament,” she said.
Hailie was named Player of the Game in the championship. Gordan received the same recognition for the Royals.
Kaylee Wright was named to the First Team All Tournament, and Brockway and Hailie Wright were named to Second Team All Tournament.
Grant Union has advanced to the volleyball state playoffs for nine consecutive years and to the state tournament the past five years.
Last year, the Prospectors claimed the state title, and two years before, the team placed third.
In her first year coaching for Grant Union, Abrego took over where Shae Speth left off. Speth, who had coached the team for nine years, moved out of state with her family.
Abrego said her team adjusted well to a brand new coaching staff, which included new philosophies and new position assignments for some athletes.
She said her assistant coach Erin Beil, who spent several years officiating volleyball games, has been a “tremendous asset.”
“She has a great ability to connect with kids, which allows her to teach the fundamental skills of volleyball in a positive manner,” Abrego said.
The Prospectors held a 28-5 overall record and were champions in the Blue Mountain Conference with a 12-0 record.
“I really can’t say enough good things about this team or what they have taught me about myself as a coach,” she said. “The character they bring to this team is something that will set the standard for years to come.”
Grant Union’s varsity team included nine seniors.
“My seniors are some of the best kids I’ve had the privilege to work with, and their leadership and drive to win will be something we’ll miss next year,” Abrego said.
Grant Union had hoped for a repeat of last year, when they won the championship title, and Abrego said although they came up just short of their goal, her team accepted defeat with “class and sophistication.” She said that attitude is something not all coaches get to acknowledge after a tough loss.
With four returning varsity players to start the season next year, the coach said she’s excited for the possibilities.
“I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity to coach in this community, and for the memories that were made this season, as they are irreplaceable,” she said. “Second place in the state is quite an accomplishment.”
Grant Union vs. Portland Christian
Hailie Wright: 12/1/0/29/11
Sydney Brockway: 9/4/1/0/16
Trinity Hutchison: 8/0/2/0/0
McKeely Miller: 4/0/0/0/0
Taylor Allen: 4/0/0/0/0
Alcie Moore: 2/0/0/15/9
Aidan Broemeling: 1/0/0/0/8
Yui Asami: 0/3/0/0/12