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Banks goes undefeated for the year

At high schools the size of Banks — the third-smallest Class 4A school in the state with an enrollment of only 388 students — athletic success tends to come in waves.

One strong incoming class can boost the school’s athletics programs for years, while an unusually large graduating class can sometimes cripple traditionally successful teams.

That’s nothing new in Banks. Eight years ago, the departure of a talented class of male athletes left a young and inexperienced football team to fend for itself. The Braves went 0-10 that year and lost the first four games of the next season, but eventually equilibrium was restored — the football team went on to play for a state championship in 2008, and the Braves have now qualified for the state playoffs seven straight times.

A similar situation occurred on the softball diamond when a strong class graduated in 2007, leaving the next year’s roster chock full of freshmen and sophomores. The Lady Braves struggled through a 1-22 campaign in 2008 before welcoming a precocious freshman class the next season.

What has happened since then has been amazing to watch.

In softball alone, Banks has won or shared the regular-season Cowapa League title five straight times, and the Lady Braves won a 4A state championship in 2012 and were runners-up in 2010.

And that doesn’t account for the Braves’ four straight state tournament appearances in volleyball, including a second-place finish in 2010 and third-place finishes the past two seasons, or the Braves’ three consecutive state tournament appearances in girls basketball, including a third-place finish in 2011-12.

Much has been made about last year’s graduating senior class, which helped spark this historic run in Banks girls athletics. But this year’s seniors have been there almost every step of the way, and they carved out their own distinctive legacy of athletic success.

Beginning with volleyball in the fall, continuing through basketball season, and culminating with the end of softball season earlier this month, Banks ran the table in Cowapa League play. Undefeated. For an entire school year, the Lady Braves did not lose a single game in league play, going 35-0 against Cowapa opponents.

That’s something no class has done in the history of Banks athletics, and possibly in the history of the current Cowapa League.

“It’s pretty crazy what these girls have done when you consider that they’ve done it in a number of different sports,” said Banks athletic director Jacob Pence. “It’s amazing how many of these girls compete in two or three sports.”

Banks wrapped up its historic accomplishment on May 10 with a doubleheader sweep of Tillamook, capping a perfect 15-0 softball season and the Lady Braves’ fifth straight league title. Earlier this year, the Banks girls basketball team went 10-0 to clinch the program’s first-ever league championship, and last fall the volleyball team also went 10-0 to clinch its first outright league title.

That’s 35 straight wins against the Cowapa League, and the streak stretches to 45 if you include last softball season. The last time a Banks girls team lost to a league opponent was on April 20, 2012, when Yamhill-Carlton posted a 3-2 softball victory.

That’s a long time and a lot of wins.

Banks softball coach Jenny Compton has enjoyed more success than just about anyone at the school over the past five years, but even she admits to feeling some pressure to keep the streak alive this spring.

“At the conclusion of the basketball league schedule, I already knew that the volleyball team had done it, so I put a little bit more pressure on myself,” she said. “The expectation was that if anyone was going to have an undefeated season, it was probably going to be softball. Nobody said anything to me or any of the girls about it, I just did it to myself. But I definitely felt a little bit of pressure.”

Compton may have been the only one in the Banks dugout who felt that pressure. The players, who have collectively embraced the concept of taking one game at a time, treated every opponent the same and refused to peek ahead on the schedule.

“To be honest, the girls have been almost mute on some of these goals that they know are out there,” Compton said. “If anything is discussed about what would happen down the road, some of the girls are like, ‘Shh! Stop talking! We are not talking about that.’

“I think maybe at the end of the season they’ll be able to look back and enjoy some of these accomplishments.”

For this senior class, there was still one more chapter to write in the legacy they will eventually leave behind, and that started with the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.

Last year the Braves won their first state softball championship since 1999, and they will be heavy favorites to defend their title with a 25-2 overall record and the No. 2 ranking in the state.

But these players also have vivid memories of 2011, when a heavily-favored Banks squad was knocked out of the postseason by underdog Molalla.

“I’m over that loss,” Compton said. “It was a terrible thing, but I think in some ways it helped these girls realize that you can’t take anything for granted. In the playoffs, anybody can win on any given day. Right now the girls are just very, very focused on the next game.”

With everything these seniors have accomplished in the past four years, they have certainly earned the right to look back and celebrate, but they know there is still work to be done if they want to reach their ultimate goal.

Perhaps that is their greatest legacy.

A version of this story originally appeared in the May 22 issue of the News-Times.



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