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HRV volleyball looking forward to next year

The Hood River Valley Eagles varsity volleyball team concluded its season Tuesday evening with a 3-2 loss at The Dalles. The loss put the team at 3-8 in the conference and out of reach of a playoff berth, and although the team didn’t end in the position it wanted to, those who will be back next season have a lot to look forward to.

“We didn’t end up in the CRC standings where I thought we would,” said coach Scott Walker, whose squad concluded the 2013 season with a 3-2 five-set tiebreaker loss (21-25,25-17, 18-25, 26-24, 15-11) this week against the Eagle-Indians (1-8 CRC, 2-13). “I felt like it was definitely a match that we should’ve won. It certainly wasn’t the way our seniors wanted to end their high school volleyball careers.”

HRV finished third in the four-team CRC standings behind Hermiston (7-2, 8-8) and Pendleton (7-2, 7-8), while TDW took fourth place. TDW’s victory was its first conference win of the season.

“They (TDW) served better and hit better than we did, so that was the biggest difference in the game,” said Walker. “We didn’t serve well at all and that was our downfall. That’s kind of been the main weakness of our team.

“Service errors really hurt us all year.”

A lack of varsity experience was a contributing factor for the rocky road the team travels down this season; and something they’ll improve upon next year. Out of seven seniors on the squad, only Sydney McHale and Tabitha Merten had played on the Eagle varsity team a year ago. For those seniors, and Alyssa Rangel, Mara Christina Troxel, Megan Tegman, Rachel Lahti and Kayla Byers, Tuesday’s game marked the conclusion of their high school volleyball careers.

“It was an unusual situation having all the seniors but not very much varsity experience,” said Walker. “They all improved and made some great contributions to our team. This was one of the oldest teams I’ve ever had, with so many juniors and seniors. However, in terms of playing at the varsity level, it was one of the least-experienced teams that I’ve had.”

The future looks bright for the Eagles with six juniors returning for a good nucleus of players with varsity experience. Those juniors include the Karr twin sisters, JoJo and Jessie, who will be back as key team leaders next year. Lauren Winans, Jennifer Packer, Emily Viuhkola and Jestena Mattson will also return for HRV next season to form an experienced squad with six seniors who all have that important varsity experience that they gained this year.

“We’ll have a good group of players retuning,” said Walker. “All the juniors definitely made key contributions this season and it will be good to have them back for another year. Our success depends on finding someone who is willing to work hard to be our setter, which is such an important position. If we don’t, then we’ll likely be right back where we finished at this year. Hopefully, all the girls will work hard during the offseason and play on club teams in the spring and summer next year to help them improve and become better players.”

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