The Lady Eagles rarely know what to expect of themselves.
Back on Aug. 30, Joseph High School's volleyball team started its season at Dufur. Right away, the Lady Eagles showed elements of talent mixed with uncertainty. For the next two months, they played inconsistently in the competitive Old Oregon district. They won three of their 10 matches, and in three of their losses they squandered big leads. Nevertheless, they returned to Dufur on Oct. 29 to end the season ... in a state playoff match. Dufur High's Rangers - state champions three of the four previous years - quickly eliminated the Eagles in three games (25-23, 25-16 and 25-13).
"This whole season," Joseph senior Paige Bailey said, "we had our moments. But finishing has been our problem."
In her last high school match, Bailey scored five points with hits. She also made 10 digs to give Joseph opportunities. Classmate BoDean Warnock had five kills, seven digs and two blocks. Another senior, Shelby Harshman, contributed eight assists. Junior Anna Bird totaled two blocks. In the first game, senior Claire Ogren, who transferred from Warrenton High, made two kills, two blocks and two aces.
Ogren's aces happened on back-to-back serves in the opener, as the Eagles jumped ahead 5-2. Warnock also served an ace. Harshman confused the Rangers with a tip over the net, and the ball landed untouched for a point. Dufur came back with eight points for the lead, but Joseph answered with a run of its own. Bailey served as the Eagles went back on top, 13-10. Junior Mariah Warnock hustled for a dig and scored. Bird chipped in a kill for a 16-12 advantage.
However, the Rangers took over for the rest of the night. After Bird's kill, they countered by amassing seven straight points. Little by little, they added to their lead. Ahead 24-19, the Rangers needed one more score for an easy decision. But the Eagles refused to go down quietly. They regained possession. Bird tallied another kill. After Joseph strung together four points to get within one, Dufur called time out. Out of the break, the Eagles tried to set up for a game-tying point. They had practiced the play countless times: an easy bump, a set and a powerful hit. But after the bump, a circle of Eagles quietly looked at one another as the ball dropped to the floor.
Joseph needed time to get over the disheartening setback. Unfortunately, the Rangers wouldn't wait and quick tallied five points to start the second game. Eventually, their edge grew to 15-3. Finally, the Eagles snapped into shape. BoDean hit three kills as Joseph crept to within 17-14. But the Rangers would hold onto their edge. Bailey said the Lady Eagles became discouraged and played quietly in the final game.
Next year, coach Anna Yost can continue building the program. The Eagles will lose five seniors, four of whom - Bailey, BoDean, Claire, Shelby - started. Old Oregon coaches voted Bailey All-District, first team honors. BoDean made the second team and Harshman earned an honorable mention. However, a number of contributors will return. Mariah played smart as a setter. Bird developed into an athletic middle blocker. Josey Kohlhepp regularly accumulated the most digs. Her younger sister, Jesse, already began to fulfill some of her potential. Together, they helped this year's team enjoy flashes of brilliance.
"We went further than we've ever gone," senior Paige Bailey said. "That in itself is an accomplishment. But this was hard, knowing it was my last game."