As good as the Banks Braves have been over the past two years, the real power of Cowapa League volleyball still resides in the one and only Brick House.
The Astoria Lady Fishermen proved it yet again Thursday night, as they wrapped up their second straight solo Cowapa League title with a three-game sweep over Yamhill-Carlton, 25-18, 25-20, 25-12. It was Astorias third straight overall league title, after tying for the championship in 2009.
Astoria improves to 20-1 overall, 9-0 in the Cowapa. The team will finish the league season Tuesday at Banks, then begin postseason play.
Theres still work to be done with more home matches but Senior Night at Astoria couldnt have been much better for the teams lone seniors, Kelsie Houghtaling and Olivia Israel.
It was a perfect Senior Night, Houghtaling said. Not just because we won. The thing I love about this team is that we care about each individual person, on and off the court.
Like before the match tonight, we talked a lot about how weve come together as a team, and I felt that our chemistry really came into play that first game.
Despite a little delay in the Senior Night ceremonies, I enjoyed it, she said. It was fun to chill back and chat with the girls.
And winning a league title is really special, in arguably the toughest Class 4A league in the state.
The league title feels so good, said Israel, who has enjoyed all three. Weve really come together as a team.
Banks and Astoria met in the state semifinals in 2010 this year, there could be even more at stake if the Braves and Fish meet at the state tournament in Eugene.
The league may have been as tough as its been in a long, long time, said Astoria coach Eric Gohr. I think at one point we had three teams in the top six in the state (at the 4A level), which is unheard of. And theyre all legitimate teams.
To have one league title in this league would be an accomplishment. To have three is a testament to the girls and their hard work.
Houghtaling said, I really feel blessed to have the league championship this year, because our league really is so competitive. Y-C played out of their minds tonight. I cant think of a game where it was easy.
As for the match, Astoria held big leads in all three games, but still had to hold off a strong challenge by the Tigers in Games 1 and 2.
Houghtaling scored two ace serves and vaulted Astoria to a 10-1 lead in the opener.
Houghtaling and Danielle Moyer each had three kills in the game, in which Yamhill closed to within 20-15 before the Fish were able to put things away.
In Game 2, sophomore Allesun Silva set up kills for Moyer, Houghtaling and Noelle Lund, helping Astoria build a 14-6 advantage.
Yamhill battled back to within 22-19 before freshman Kyra Grafton tapped a ball over the Tiger block at game point.
Yamhill held its first lead of the night in Game 3 at 2-0, but it was all Astoria after that. Israel had her Senior Moment, leading the charge with back-to-back ace serves early, then delivering three kills for an eventual 22-9 lead.
Silva added three ace serves to highlight the game.
The Fishermen are now less than a week away from claiming a two-year win streak on their home floor. Astoria hasnt lost in the House of Bricks since Oct. 27, 2009 (a three-game loss to Tillamook).
The home-court advantage is a testament to some of the other players weve had Kayce Lilley, Jordan Thoreson, Katrina (Gauthier), Haley (Larson) I dont want to leave anybody out, but those girls kind of set the tone that this was a place to protect and defend the home floor, Gohr said. Its definitely an advantage, and my girls the last three years have been smart enough to take advantage of it.
In other Cowapa League action Thursday, Banks defeated Scappoose (25-9, 25-16, 25-13), and Tillamook got past Seaside in four games, 25-15, 21-25, 28-26, 25-15. No details were available.