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Banks earns fifth straight state tourney bid

Lady Braves sweep Sutherlin to punch their return ticket to the state volleyball tournament


by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Banks sophomore Megan Bunn rips a kill past Sutherlin's Kayce Mock during Saturday's state playoff match. Make it five in a row for the Banks volleyball team.

Having already stormed to a perfect record and a Cowapa League championship this season, Banks whipped Sutherlin 25-18, 25-8, 25-18 on Saturday to earn the program’s fifth straight appearance at the Class 4A state tournament, which begins on Friday at Lane Community College in Eugene.

Fifth-ranked Banks (22-4) will open tournament play at 8 a.m. with a match against fourth-ranked Sisters (19-5).

Virtually every member of this year’s Banks team made the trip to Eugene for the 2012 state tourney — including sophomores Megan Bunn and MaKenna Partain, who were both major contributors a season ago — and co-coach Diana Herb said that experience will be invaluable this time around.

“It can be overwhelming, intimidating and stressful. Having that experience will help a lot,” Herb said. “The first year (we went to state) there was a lot of nerves. There’s a lot to say for having been there before. The players know what it’s like and what to expect.”

The Lady Braves will also know what to expect from Sisters, a team they faced in the consolation finals at the 2011 state tournament and that beat them in two sets earlier this season at the Sisters Tournament.

“I expect it to be a good game,” Herb said of the quarterfinal matchup against the Outlaws. “They’re a good team and I expect them to show up and play hard.”

For Banks, it’s less about preparing for what an opponent wants to do and more about fine-tuning what the Lady Braves want to do.

Against Sutherlin on Saturday, the Braves won in three sets despite playing something less than their best volleyball.

“It wasn’t our best showing,” Herb said. “We’re hoping to build off that and progress as a team. We’re always wanting more.”

Herb said that despite the program’s track record of postseason success over the last few years, the relatively young 2013 team — which features only two seniors — seemed a bit rattled by the playoff atmosphere on Saturday.

“I think a lot of it was nerves. It was their first playoff game, playing at home in front of their friends and family. I think the nerves just got to them a little bit,” she said. “We just need to focus on our side of the court — our mental toughness as a team and our all-around play. We just need to tighten some things up.”

Banks will travel to Eugene on Thursday in order to prepare for the start of tournament play bright and early on Friday.

“We want to get down there and get the girls settled in, hopefully get a good night’s sleep and be ready to go on Friday,” Herb said.

Regardless of where the Braves finish in the state trophy hunt — they were second in 2010 and third in both 2011 and 2012 — this season has already been a smashing success.

“I think it was a huge goal of theirs to make it to Eugene and be in the top eight,” Herb said. “That’s a huge success for any team.”



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