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The Milwaukie High School volleyball team earned its first win in over three years on Monday against Hood River Valley.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - The Milwaukie High School volleyball team snapped a 57-match losing streak on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022, beating Hood River Valley in a five-set league match on the road in Hood River.

When the Milwaukie volleyball team traveled to face Hood River Valley on Monday, Oct. 17, there was one unwanted passenger in the mix: a 57-match losing streak.

By that point, the streak had been following the Mustangs around for over three years. It first showed up for the final 11 games of the 2019 season, starting Sept. 21 of that year, and it stayed with the team for the entirety of both the 2020 and 2021 campaigns. It hung around for the first 17 games of this year, too.

Finally, after all that time, the Mustangs finally saw an opening and ditched their losing streak in Hood River.

Milwaukie won the first two sets against the Eagles and ultimately prevailed in a 25-19, 25-15, 15-25, 18-25, 16-14 five-setter Monday night. When the Mustangs scored their match-winning point, the emotions from the past few years hit senior captain Jazell Allen all at once.

"I was relieved mostly. The past three years, we've been fighting with teams at our same level, so it was frustrating," said Allen. "After getting that win, I just started sobbing into my setter's arms.

"We finally did it."

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Milwaukie senior libero Jazell Allen, who is also a team captain, receives a serve during the Mustangs' match against La Salle Prep on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at Milwaukie High School.

Carol York, the team's head coach since 2019, knew her team had a win like this inside of them. York sees how hard the girls work in practice and in games. She watches them as they battle closely with top-ranked opponents only to have victory slip away.

"It was exciting," York said of watching her team get over the hump. "We've played really hard, and we've been working super hard to get it together. We're coming together — unfortunately, it's at the end of the season, but we've got some really good things going."

Even despite the losing streak that followed the team around for so long, these Mustangs have managed to stay loose and uplifted throughout the season. Much of that positivity can be traced back to senior captain Ada Bondo, who York calls the team's cheerleader.

"I'm definitely the most positive one," said Bondo with a smile before outlining the cause-and-effect relationship she sees with her upbeat attitude. "If you're more positive, you'll get more points. If you hype your team up, they're going to feel better.

"I think it really helps the team out," she added.

Bondo has made it her mission to keep the team's spirits up. As for buoying her own spirit, she does so by imagining each mistake or mishap as something she can wad up and toss aside. That is not just a metaphor, either.

"I pretend like I crumple up the bad play that I just did and throw it away. I physically do it," said Bondo, confirming that this is more than a simple thought exercise.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Milwaukie senior captain Ada Bondo (right) says that she loves sharing the court with her younger sister, sophomore Moe Bondo (left).

Besides her own mechanism for getting past mistakes, another factor helping Bondo stay positive this year is playing alongside her younger sister, sophomore Moe Bondo.

"It is my favorite thing in the whole entire world. I love playing with her," said Ada of sharing the court with her sibling. "She played setter last year, and it was like reading each other's minds."

Meanwhile, Allen may not have a sister on the team, but she reported a similar feeling of closeness with this year's squad.

"This year has been different," Allen explained. "In past years, there was no actual connection between the girls. This year, all of us are connected and close together. When a lot of my friends moved up (to varsity) with me, I was finally able to have that connection that I didn't have the past two years."

In addition to the strong connections with her teammates, Allen has also come into her own as a libero after previously playing in a hitter's role. The new role has made this her favorite season on the volleyball court, but it didn't start that way.

"At first, I hated it," said the senior about changing positions for her final season. "Then, I looked at the team and realized a lot of the people moving up were hitters. I felt like it was my job as a team captain to play my role on the team. I moved to DS and then libero. Now, I actually love it.

"This year has been 10 times better than any other year I've played," said Allen.

York also noted the internal progress made by a number of other players over the course of the season, including seniors Josie Hoff, Kori Harper and Hannah Pomeroy. Each of them provides something different to the team, and each have made major strides since joining the team.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Milwaukie sophomore middle blocker Harry Berry (center) attacks against La Salle Prep's Olivia Maulding during a match on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at Milwaukie High School.

As for the future of the program, York is particularly excited about Harry Berry, a sophomore middle blocker who has blossomed late in the year as a burgeoning talent up front.

"I can't wait to see what she does," said York.

In the meantime, the Mustangs still have a season to finish. No, Milwaukie volleyball is not going to win a state championship this season. Still, within this team, the positivity is positively teeming.

Thanks to those upbeat attitudes, the Mustangs now have a bit more to celebrate in their Senior Night on Tuesday, Oct. 25, at home against Hillsboro.

Even better, there is one fewer invitee on the guest list for Senior Night: that long losing streak they stranded in Hood River.

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