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The Braves narrowly miss out on a spot in the 3A state tournament, but the season is one to be proud of.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks seniors Tayler Vanaken and Madison Walker rise to block a shot during the Braves' first round playoff game against Douglas.It's over. The magical Banks volleyball run that saw a mostly mediocre team early on, turn into a league champion and state title contender over the team's final month, ended in a five-set loss to No. 3-ranked Santiam Christian Oct. 29. But while the season ended a game short of the 3A state tournament, it was long on success despite the loss to end the year.

"We couldn't be more proud of this group from where they started to what they have accomplished," Banks head coach Diana Herb said. "Their mindset became stronger, confidence grew and they became great teammates to each other.   What they have accomplished this season not only as a team but as individuals has been huge and fun to watch."

The playoff loss to Santiam Christian was a heartbreaker, with the Braves winning the first set 25-19, dropping the next two 25-13 and 25-18, only to see Banks take the fourth set 25-17 before losing the deciding stanza 15-10. Herb pinned the loss on late service errors but was ultimately proud of her team which prior had to overcome an exceptional Eagles front line.

"Santiam Christian brought some of the toughest hitting and blocking we have seen all season, so our hitters were challenged along with our defense," the coach said. "Girls stepped up, competed and continued to get them out of system to keep us in the match. In the end it was too many missed serves that kept us out of that fifth set."

A win and state tournament berth would've been unthinkable a month prior, for the Braves started the season winning just five of their first nine games. But since, the team had won 12 of 14 matches prior to their loss to Santiam Christian, secured a league title with a tiebreaker win over Corbett, and found themselves just a win away from a state tournament that wasn't even on their radar weeks earlier—something even Herb didn't see coming.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks senior Madison Walker goes up for a kill during the Braves' first round playoff game against Douglas. Banks won the match and went on to lose a five-set thriller to Santiam Christian in the second round.
"Midway through the season, after a few crucial losses, we thought maybe we (the coaching staff) can't get them to where they could be, but then something changed," Herb said. "We started to see better controlled play at tournaments.  Our focus from the start of season was to play at an elevated level with minimal low points, versus playing low with a few high points.  They accomplished that and picked up some great league wins."

Had Banks been able to pull out the second round win over Santiam Christian their state tournament path would've included a match with No. 6-seeded Burns, and a potential semifinal match with either the seventh or 15th seed prior to a final. A doable path and one Herb and her team would loved to have gone down, but while short of their ultimate goal, this Banks volleyball season can only be deemed a success.

"Our goal was to get to the final-eight, so losing was definitely disappointing knowing our unforced errors (missed serves) were a factor," Herb said. "We had been working hard and stepping up our game every day, and to have made it to the state tourney to compete would have been an accomplishment win or lose. But in the end we're proud of the girls' determination and heart they brought to the playoffs. They were in it to win."


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