Grizzlies primed for strong start

Helix's Addie Terjeson sends the ball over the net during the Big Sky title game in Umatilla Oct. 25.<br><I>Staff photo by Sarah Britain

HELIX - There is not much mystery about Forest Grove or the state tournament to the Helix volleyball team.

Frequent visitors of the annual site, the Grizzlies have already mapped out their plan of attack for their first-round match against Crane at 8 a.m. Friday.

According to coach Tammie Parker, the Grizzlies have looked at everything from detailing the surroundings of Court 2 - the only court surrounded by chairs on all sides - to knowing the pitfalls of an 8 a.m. start time.

"I think it's good to not have to sit around and worry about it," said Parker about kicking off state tournament play with the first match. "We know what it's going to be like. We get to get up right away and play and that's what we're the most used to."

The experience of having been to a state tournament will aid Helix, she added, while the Mustangs will be making the trip to Forest Grove after missing the tournament in 2007.

Despite Crane's impressive run through the preseason, an undefeated conference slate and knocking off Cove in three straight appearances, the Mustangs lack Helix's experience.

The Grizzlies have not lost a match since late September and return nearly everyone from last year's third-place finish. According to Parker, they have been thoroughly tested in their regular season.

"We played a a very tough preseason and the Big Sky is tough," she said. "We're healthy, we're strong and the girls are ready to go."

WESTON-MCEWEN

TIGERSCOTSDuring their run of state tournaments, the TigerScots have not found many new opponents and so far this postseason that again has been the case.

To earn a trip to Forest Grove Weston-McEwen defeated an old nemesis in Portland Christian in five games after falling to the Royals in the championship game the last two years.

Continuing the trend of seeing familiar faces in the playoffs, the TigerScots' first opponent at the tournament will be Bonanza, the team they beat in the semifinals in 2007.

It's an Antlers squad that returns just about everyone and is very athletic, according to Weston-McEwen coach Shawn White. But while the Antlers may have a beat on Weston-McEwen, White added his team won't do anything different scheme-wise.

"We're down to where we know who's going to play where by now," he said. "It changes a bit where we attack on the floor and we'll try and attack some areas that were weaknesses for them last year."

The biggest challenge for the TigerScots in the tournament this year will be how they handle the absence of Noel Griggs - an All-Tournament selection last year - to a torn ACL and Jessica Stevens to a broken ankle.

"The exciting thing about beating Portland Christian this year was we had to do that with a brand new rotation," White said. "You lose two varsity kids and that's a pretty big dent, especially with an all-state caliber player like Noel. But we've had other girls step up nicely for us so far."

The TigerScots will be joined in Forest Grove by fellow Blue Mountain Conference members Elgin and Heppner. They will not see either team on their side of the bracket.

HEPPNER MUSTANGS Of the teams in the state tournament, few have less playoff experience than the Mustangs, but few have experienced the sort of meteoric rise they did over the course of the 2008 season.

After losing All-BMC members like Megan Orr, Katie Kilkenny and Cyde Coil, Heppner soared to the top of the league led by seniors like Sherilyn Peck and Lenka Dobosova. But for the most part, the Mustangs are a young squad that gelled at just the right time.

Heppner knocked off defending league champion Weston-McEwen three times and in their opening round game, overcame the loss of their most prolific player to advance to Forest Grove for the first time in several years.

"The girls are getting a lot of respect around the school and in the community," coach Pam Dowdy said. "It's really exciting right now for the volleyball team."

It is yet to be seen if that respect will translate to the state tournament level as the Mustangs could be looked at as a darkhorse candidate, having missed the tournament since 1999.

"The girls have worked hard to be the best they can be," Dowdy said. "They've worked through a tough regular season and haven't really advertised it ... We're not really thinking about how other teams look at us, we're just going to do our best this weekend."

To combat the inexperience in the state tournament for the last decade, Dowdy said the Mustangs will lean on the experience gained through a tough preseason and regular season slate that will feature two other teams in the tournament field.

"We're at a part in our season where I don't think of us as inexperienced," Dowdy said. "And now that we're here I don't think the girls are going to settle for just getting to Forest Grove and I respect that about them."

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