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Banks battles, but can't get over the hump, losing in straight sets to the No. 1-ranked Valiants.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks' Kinely Hoag (left) and Haylee Jackson (right) go up to block a Valley Catholic spike during the Braves' state tournament game against the Valiants Friday morning, Nov. 8, at Forest Grove High School.So close, but yet so far.

After losing twice to No. 1-ranked Valley Catholic during the Cowapa League regular season, most around the Banks volleyball team new that their first round state tournament game with the Valiants would be an uphill battle. But knowing the odds, the Braves nearly defied them in a match that at times felt it could've gone either way.

Valley defeated Banks in straight sets, 25-23, 25-21, and 25-21 Friday morning, Nov. 8, at Forest Grove High School, but despite the defeat, there was no shame in the Braves' locker room following what may have been their best showing of the 2019 season.

"They came out looking great," Banks head coach Aubrey Rue said. "We lost on the scoreboard, but intensity wise, the way they came out, they proved themselves today."

Banks fell behind 14-7 in the match's opening set and things appeared to be going as planned for the heavily favored Valiants, but Banks battled back thanks primarily to seniors Kinley Hoag and Haylee Jackson who led a feverish attack of kills, blocks and aces that pulled the Braves ahead 21-17. Sadly Banks couldn't hold that lead, surrendering seven of the next eight points, four of which came at the hands of Valley freshman outside hitter Naima Foster. Trailing 24-22, the Braves pulled a point closer on a Valiants unforced error, but Foster would have none of it, putting the set to bed with one of her 18 kills and putting down what would've amounted to a very big Banks uprising.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Valley Catholic's Naima Foster goes up for a kill during the Valiants state tournament game against Banks Friday morning, Nov. 8, at Forest Grove High School.
"That would've been big," Rue said. "Valley's a team who hasn't lost a lot, so if we could've taken that first set from them it would've put them in a spot they haven't been in too much this season. But the chips just didn't fall our way."

Which was unfortunate because the coach was right; Valley wasn't comfortable playing from behind. Their faces were different, body language off, and emotionally you could see the anxiety creeping in with every Braves point. It was an opportunity for underdog Banks, and unfortunately one that got away.

"We came into the match with full faith in ourselves," said Rue. "The scoreboard is going to say whatever it's going to say, but if we play all out we have a chance to beat them. That was a great chance for us to show them that, but it just didn't happen."

The second set went similarly, with Banks building a four point lead midway through and trailing by just one, 21-20 late. But this time it wasn't Foster who did the damage, but rather her freshman counterpart, Frances Eisenhardt, who had two kills en route to the 25-21 Valiant win.

All credit to the Valiants who ultimately won the third set 25-21 and the match in straight sets, but like the two sets before, there was no quit in this Banks team. Whether it was Hoag or Jackson, senior Noel Herb, Lindsey Beck, sophomore Nya Johnson, or any number of Brave contributors, the team battled to the end, even coming back from six down midway through the final set and pulling to within 22-21 before Valley ended it.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Members of the Banks volleyball team celebrates a point during the Braves' state tournament game against the Valiants Friday morning, Nov. 8, at Forest Grove High School."I told them there was nothing negative I have to say to them," Rue said. "I feel like if we did a poll, a show of hands would show that nobody had any regrets on that game, and that's ultimately where I'd like to end this season."

But it's not over yet. While their shot at a state title is gone, the Braves still have an opportunity for fourth, and if they continue to play like they did against Valley, that's certainly not beyond their reach.

"They still have a chance for a trophy," the coach said. "I told them that unlike football, baseball or softball playoffs, you still have a chance to end on a win, so why not strive for that?"

Banks will play North Marion in the consolation bracket tomorrow morning, Nov. 9, at 8:00 a.m., and if they win will play for fourth place at 12:00 p.m., both at Forest Grove High School.

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