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Six points separated Wildcats from the quarter finals but Wilsonville look strong for the future

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Sophomore Tenley Lubisich was an aggressive play maker for the Wildcats in the 2017 season and helped lead the team to 12-2 recod in league play. Wilsonville—The 2017 season was really quite the remarkable one for the Wilsonville volleyball team. They went 12-2 in the Northwest Oregon Conference, and 14-7 overall. Heading into the playoffs the team had won their last 10 league games in a row, including beating La Salle. Prior to that match on Sept. 28, the Wildcats had not beaten La Salle in league play since the Falcons joined the NWOC.

For first year Wilsonville head coach Nathan Blankenship, that was one of the defining parts of the season.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Wilsonvilles Kennedy Juranek (5) goes to block a shot by La Salle Preps Katelyn Bell (12) during a Northwest Oregon Conference volleyball match at La Salle Prep. Juranek received an all league honorable mention. "The win over La Salle in La Salle's home turf, their home gym (was the most memorable)," Blankenship said. "When my assistant coach came up and said, 'We've never beat La Salle.' It was a very tough fought battle, very tough match, and we had to come from behind in the fifth game. On that day, it made the team tougher, it made them a better team because they came to the realization that they could be down against a great team and still come back and hold the line and grit out the next point, next point, next point, until they were victorious."

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Sophomore Lindsey Hartford was a key figure on the Wildcats volleyball team this year. Hartford has an average .364 hit percentage off nearly 400 swings in league play. In the final game of the season, Wilsonville played against the Hood River Valley Eagles on an opposing court in the first round of the playoffs. While they battled hard, the Wildcats ended up losing by the slimmest of margins.

"They're a great team, but on the night I believe that if we had played at our normal serve receive strength we would have been able to topple them," Blankenship said. "If you consider the scores as they sit, considering we didn't serve receive well, when you go 24-26, 28-30, 24-26, that's literally a six point swing which can go very easily the other way. Had we received serve a little better I think we would have taken the day. However, you've got to perform. It's a single elimination at that point and every match has to be a good one. We came out a little flat and it was enough that we couldn't win that day. So disappointing, yeah. If I had the game to do over again, I think we would probably best them." SPOKESMAN PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Junior Delaney Dougherty received second team honors for his efforts in the 2017 season. The Wildcats finished their season 14-7 overall.

Despite the result of that final game, Blankenship and the coaching staff were otherwise very happy with the perseverance and attitude his team displayed over the course of the season.

"I'm very happy with the season," Blankenship said. "The girls worked extremely hard to merge very quickly as a team. It being the first season for me, I had a lot of changes and a lot of new things I introduced them to in the way the offensive and the defensive systems were running, some of the fundamentals of how we execute as a team. Their response was to take it in stride and work very, very hard through the season. I think the results show just how hard they worked, and how well they jelled under the captains as a team."

"I was very pleased with how quickly they adapted and adopted and embraced the new methodology we brought in," Blankenship added. "It paid dividends."

The results speak for themselves. A winning record and six players who received league honors is nothing to overlook. Sophomore Lindsey Hartford and senior Madison Schmitt got first team honors, and junior Delaney Dougherty got second team honors. Sophomores Grace Thompson, Tenley Lubisich, and Kennedy Juranek received honorable mentions.

"I'm extremely proud of the girls and their effort," Blankenship said. "This is about them and what they achieved. I can guide them and I can give them the tools, but at the end of the day it's them out there on the court."

Schmitt was the only senior that the Wilsonville program graduates on the court, and her example is one the coaches hope to see emulated going forward. As Blankenship looks ahead at Wilsonville's volleyball program, he sees a bright future.

"I don't want to belabor the point, but they did a great job this year," Blankenship said." The leaders, Delanie and Maddy as captains of the team, Maddy in particular with her maturity and leadership, were a huge influence and a huge benefit to the team to draw them together and help them achieve what they did this year. She was a huge part of this season and the success we had this season because I consider this an extremely successful season, yet it's only our first and I truly believe we'll get better from here."

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