Wallowa High School's 20-1 volleyball team collided with Cove's juggernaut and derailed at the District 4 1A Volleyball Tournament on Saturday.
Cove was on a roll. After defeating Jordan Valley 25-13, 25-19 and Powder Valley 12-25, 25-18, 25-10, 25-11, Cove was ready to seize the first-place trophy. The Leopards were all business as they beat Wallowa 25-17, 25-22, 25-14 to advance to state as the No. 1 seed. Meanwhile, Wallowa dropped into a second-seed round to face Powder Valley, which had given up its sole match of the tournament to Cove.
The one-two punch of Cove and Powder Valley was too much for the Wallowa Cougars. Wallowa battled to a 26-24 win in the opening game against the Badgers, but Powder Valley stiffened and won the next three, 25-23, 25-23, 28-26. Powder Valley celebrated its second-seed placement at state, while Wallowa players gathered in a circle and consoled each other as their season ended.
Wallowa head coach Terri Wilson sensed problems early on. In back-to-back opening matches, the Cougars beat Monument-Dayville 25-23, 25-12 and Long Creek 25-12, 25-17, 25-10 (winners' bracket matches were best three out of five). However, as the team readied for Cove, Wilson said, "We didn't play real consistently this morning."
Hitting, blocking and "taking control of the net" would be keys for the Cougars, Wilson predicted. She was right. Against Cove, balls hit into the net were fatal, and Cove's front line forced shots to sail long for the Cougars.
Then, the Badgers dominated the net with thundering spikes and blocks. However, unlike Cove, which seemed unflappable through the tournament, Powder Valley hit some rough spots en route to second place. In the second-seed round, the Badgers slipped by Prairie City 25-20, 26-24 and managed to beat Jordan Valley in three, 20-25, 25-21, 25-18.
After these close matches, though, Powder Valley was primed for Wallowa.
The four-game win over Wallowa found Powder Valley's first-team all-star Joelle Bain at the top of her game. She hammered the Cougars with kills, particularly late in the pivotal third game, when a spike put the Badgers up 24-23. The momentum would teeter between the teams in the fourth game, until Bain broke a 26-26 tie with a kill and served for the match point.
Wallowa did not go down without a fight. Sarah Bomberger and Amanda Wilson earned first-team all-star status with their relentless kills at the net.
Other first-team all-stars included Cove's Lisa Scheele and Melissa Smith. Second-team all-stars included Long Creek's Becca Helstowski, Jordan Valley's Emily Mackenzie, Powder Valley's Jenny Dayhoff, Prairie City's Brittany Reid and Amanda Rockhill and Wallowa's Megan McLain.
Powder Valley head coach Molly Smith, in her first year with the Badgers, said she was pleased with the performance of her players.
"We've really been coming along, and Cove and Wallowa are such great teams. We knew it would be a battle," she said.
Wallowa, whose only loss in the regular season came to Union, ended with a 10-0 league record and trophies for sportsmanship and consolation runner-up from districts.