Last Fall, we saw the 2A volleyball season end in epic fashion with a five-set thriller in the state title match. The top-seeded Salem Academy Lady Crusaders grabbed an early two-set advantage, dominating the opening set 25-15 and holding off Monroe in set two, 25-20. However, the Lady Dragons refused to fold, rallying to win set three, 25-19, and set four, 25-22. When it came time for the fifth set, all of the momentum seemed to be in Monroe’s hands. After a back-and-forth start, the score was knotted at 12 a piece; Salem Academy then pieced together three consecutive points to claim back-to-back state titles. Ultimately, it was a matchup the fans deserved. Not only due to how competitive the match was but due to the fact both teams were the clear top two teams all season.
Teams to Look Out For in 2023
Salem Academy – After winning back-to-back state titles, Salem Academy has the chance to solidify itself as a dynasty in 2023. The Lady Crusaders will lean on OH Emma Brewer and S/RS Lexi Hurber to provide a wealth of experience and leadership after they both landed their names on the First-Team All-State list in 2022. However, the Crusaders must replace MB Aly Herber, who was a First-team All-State selection as well but graduated in the Spring. They must also replace Lexi Herber, a First-Team All-State selection that transferred to Western Christian. Salem Academy will come into the Fall as the favorites, and should they complete the trifecta, they’d be the first team to win back-to-back-to-back 2A Volleyball titles since Vale, who went 90-7 from 1990-1992. The reigning Coach of the Year, Melissa Holman, has a great bunch, and one of the things we’re most excited about is to see how she and her Salem Academy bunch will do at the Nike Tournament of Champions. This is a massive tournament at the end of September, hosted in Phoenix, Arizona, where some of the best teams in the country go to play. Salem Academy will be accompanied by St. Paul as the only schools 1A-4A to attend the tournament.
Gaston – After falling in the state championship game two years ago and the state semifinals last season, the Gaston Lady Greyhounds are gearing up for another run. Whilst each of the last two seasons hasn’t finished the way they intended, there is still a lot to look forward to. Junior duo Lexi Fern and Cayden Henderson return for the Greyhounds after both earned a spot on First-Team All-State last year. Gaston only graduates two players from their 2022 roster, and in a fairly easy 2A Northwest League, we see the Greyhounds as a lock for a top-five seed.
Grant Union – Another team we’re really excited about this season is the Grant Union Lady Prospectors. After clinching a state championship in Softball, this young group now has the big game experience to take the next step. Last year Grant Union lacked a veteran core and eventually got upset by the 13th-seeded Oakland Oakers in the 1st Round. This year, they return their entire starting rotation and are poised to make a run. Of those returning is Second-Team All-State selection Drew Williams. The best pitcher in 2A is also one of the best middle back’s in the classification, and her athleticism will give Grant Union a step up on any opponent. Also returning is an Honorable Mention selection, Halle Parsons. The libero was the best at her position in the Blue Mountain Conference last season, and we envision her emulating that again in 2023. One big step we’d like to see Grant Union take this year is to beat all of the 1A Volleyball schools around them. It’s a tough ask with the likes of Crane, Powder Valley, and Prairie City always being so talented, but if they’re able to do so, we believe it takes them to the next level.
Oakridge – The Oakridge Lady Oakers. A team tucked away along HWY 58 is ready to make a big leap this year. After making it to the State Quarterfinals in 2022, the Oakers return all but two starters this Fall. Of those returning is Second-Team All-State selection Jade Snyder and Honorable Mention selection Kaili Kirkhart. The depth of the Valley Coast Conference should prepare Oakridge for the postseason, with the likes of Monroe and HWY 58 rival Lowell slated to be strong as well. Oakridge will open up its season at Gaston, which will be a great first test for a group ready to launch.
Monroe – It’s no secret that in 2023, Monroe will need to replace some key talent that graduates from their 2022 squad. However, this is a Lady Dragons side that hasn’t lost more than five matches in a season since 2018. One of the most impressive stats we noticed when analyzing Monroe was that from September 27th to November 4th of last year, they didn’t drop a single set. Leading the group of returners will be Second-Team All-State setter, Lainie Bateman. Bateman became a team captain as just a sophomore, which proves she has what it takes to lead a young Dragon side onward this Fall. The notable exits from Monroe’s squad include the State Player of the Year, Bella Gamache, and Second-Team All-State selections Hannah Hicks and Emily Hull. The leader in the clubhouse to replace Gamache will be Josie Essner, who also plays at the OH/MB position and earned Honorable Mention accolades last Fall. One of the first big tests for this Monroe squad will be a road match at Scio on August 29th. This is a matchup that went five sets last season and will prove to be a great non-league benchmark for both teams.
Other teams that are poised to have a strong 2023 include Lowell, Stanfield, Weston-McEwen, and Bandon.
One team that may make some very unexpected noise is Western Christian. After only having a JV squad last season, the addition of the Herber’s could turn them around in just one season.
Other players worth keeping an eye on this season includes:
Annabelle Pickett (Lowell)
Lirian Holden (Weston-McEwen)
Mazie Reeser (Stanfield)
Katelyn Senn (Bandon)
- Salem Academy
- Grant Union
- Western Christian
Considered: Portland Christian, Nestucca, Culver, Willamina, Oakland