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Tigers survive to state tournament.

Byline: Steve Mims The Register-Guard

An up-and-down season took another big rise for Junction City when the Tigers survived three playoff games to reach the OSAA Class 4A volleyball tournament this morning at Lane Community College.

The Tigers have been practicing early this week in preparation for a first-round match against Douglas that starts at 8 a.m.

The Tigers started the Sky-Em League season with five victories in six games, but stumbled during the second half to finish tied for third at 7-5. JC beat Cottage Grove in a league playoff game, then defeated North Valley and Astoria in the sub-tournament to make state for the third year in a row.

"We started out the season real strong and then we had injury problems and it hurt us," Junction City coach Gary Meininger said. "We've just started to get healthy again and we are playing like we did at the beginning of the season. Astoria placed sixth at state last year and had most of its players back and we went to their place and played well in a tough match to get back to state."

Senior Kayla Rauschert is the only returning starter from last year, but three other seniors are in the lineup. Lindsey Vaughn is the setter, Jessica Rodolf is an outside hitter and Leah Mancino turned out for volleyball this year and has been a big asset at middle blocker.

JC is in the state quarterfinals for the third straight year, but has gone two-and-out in the past two seasons.

"I feel very confident," Meininger said. "I think we're as good as we're going to get. If we play well against Douglas, then we have a good chance to move on. We want a trophy bad. We have been there the last two years and failed to get a trophy."

Douglas won the Far West League and defeated Newport in the sub-tournament.

The Class 3A tournament is held alongside the 4A event at LCC, and Creswell is back in the field for the second year in a row after going two-and-out last year. The Bulldogs open the tournament at 3:15 p.m. against Cascade Christian.

Creswell started the PacWest Conference season with nine straight victories before losing three of its final five to finish in second place at 11-3.

"We started off the season playing phenomenal. We beat Santiam Christian and were undefeated and then all of a sudden we hit a road block," Creswell coach Anna Baltrusch said. "We lost some games and had lots of people out and suffered a lot of adversity three-quarters of the way through the season."

Senior outside hitter Emily Miller was co-player of the year in the conference, and senior middle blocker Megan McMahon was a first-team all-league selection. Senior Joy Gernhardt was a second-team selection in her first season as setter.

"We're trying to not be satisfied with getting to state," Baltrusch said. "We want to go for the championship and win games now that we are there."

Reedsport opens the tournament against Santiam Christian at 1:15 p.m.

Sheldon and Thurston are in Hillsboro for the 6A and 5A tournaments at Liberty High School.

Sheldon beat Sunset in the sub-torunament 25-23, 21-25, 22-25, 25-21, 15-7.

"I was excited with our performance against Sunset," first-year coach Kandice Feola said. "We fought hard. We lost two games, but they beat us in those games, we did not lose them. They did good things and then we answered with our own good things. That was exciting to see. It is great that our timing is coming and we are figuring it out at the end of the season."

Sheldon opens the tournament at 8 a.m. against Central Catholic, which has lost in the state final during each of the past three seasons.

Sheldon sophomore Gabbi Parker and senior Molly Cochran both earned first-team all-Southwest Conference honors as hitters along with senior setter Allix Strahon and defensive specialist Hannah Thompson. Sheldon went 7-3 to finish second in the SWC.

Thurston is back in the 5A tournament for the second year in a row after winning at Portland Interscholastic League champion Cleveland in the sub-tournament. The Colts finished tied for first in the Midwestern League at 9-1.

"I think we made a lot of progress with this team," Thurston coach Didier Hemelsoet said.

"We had really only one returning starter from last year and we have gotten stronger and stronger. We have been up and down. We can play well and also play poorly at times, but late in the season we have gotten better and better. If we can pass well, we can play with anybody."

Thurston has a tough road, beginning with its opening match against Ashland, the 2005 state champion, at 3:15 p.m. The winner of that match will likely face defending champion Crook County in the semifinals tonight.

Thurston seniors Tara Hill and Jessica Oberg earned first-team all-league honors, along with freshman middle blocker Alec Goodrie.

Lowell and Crow are in the 1A tournament at Pacific University in Forest Grove. Lowell won the Mountain West League East Division at 15-1, and Crow won the West Division at 14-2.

Lowell opens the tournament at 1:15 p.m. against Griswold, and Crow plays at 3:15 p.m. against Imbler.
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Title Annotation:Volleyball
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 9, 2007
Words:887
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