The Neah-Kah-Nie lady Pirates volleyball team desperately needed a win in order to stay alive in the Class 2A Northwest League District volleyball playoffs. The Pirates had a chance to extend their season if they could just get an upset win over the Portland Christian Royals.
In the David versus Goliath type of matchup though, it was the number four ranked Royals (13-0 NWL, 23-3 overall) who recorded a 3-0 win Tuesday at Portland Christian High School. The Pirates concluded the season with 2-9 NWL mark and 3-14 overall won/lost record.
The contest marked the final game of their Neah-Kah-Nie High School volleyball career for seniors Clover O’Connor and Grace Miller. Despite the lopsided season-ending loss to the Royals, Coach Jenna Archibald’s Pirates displayed the kind of upbeat attitude and inspirational team spirit that is seen often in playoff teams.
“Oh my goodness, I just can’t say enough good things about Clover and Grace,” said Archibald, the Pirates sixth year coach. “They’ve both done a great job of providing leadership and displaying their positive attitude. They’re both team captains, they show up and set a good example by working hard at every practice. Portland Christian has a very good team, they hit hard and they’re fun to watch. They’re going to continue in the state playoffs and do some very good things. I think they definitely have a chance to win the state championship.”
From the beginning to the end of the match, the Pirates smiled, they laughed, and they constantly gave each other high-fives to show support for a teammate’s good play. The impressive sportsmanship that the Pirates displayed certainly wasn’t indicative of a team that had won only three games all year.
The Pirates, guided by the coach, were tied 1-1 in the first set and trailed by only one point during the early portion of Game 1 at 3-2. Portland Christian, the defending Class 2A state champion, went on an 11-2 run to build a double digit 14-4 advantage and force a Pirates timeout. The Royals’ momentum continued as they went on another impressive run, outscoring the Pirates 11-1 for a 25-5 first set victory.
Neah-Kah-Nie had a strong start in the second set and led 1-0 when O’Connor served an ace. Sophomore defensive specialist Emma Stanley pounded a kill over the net to knot the score at 2-2. Sophomore outside hitter Emma Miller then served an ace, lifting Neah-Kah-Nie in front at 3-2.
“It wasn’t a fun season and it was kind of up and down for sure,” O’Connor said. “They [Royals] are a very good team and they seemed to play even better than the last time we played them (a 3-0 loss Sept. 24). Some parts of the season were fun, and some parts were not so fun, but I still love playing volleyball.”
Following two deadlocks at 3-3 and 4-4, the Royals then took control with a 10-1 run to take a 14-5 lead and force a timeout by coach Archibald. The highly regarded Royals, led by senior outside hitter Josie Ernst (12 kills), then outscored the Pirates 11-0 for another 25-5 second set victory.
The third set was knotted 4-4 and then Portland Christian scored seven straight to build an 11-4 lead. After Neah-Kah-Nie trimmed it to 11-6, Portland Christian went on a 9-1 run to take a 20-7. The Royals then followed with 5-1 rally for a 25-8 third set win.
“I came into this game knowing that it was probably going to be a tough loss, but we still had fun and I had a good time actually,” Miller said. “The hardest thing for me to do this season was to keep having a positive attitude. I knew that this was probably going to be my last game and I just tried to make it as enjoyable as I possibly could.”
Neah-Kah-Nie actually had three seniors on its squad, including Trinity Brown. However, Brown suffered an early season injury and was unable to compete for the second half of the year.
“We’re a very young team and we have a large group of eighth graders that will move up to our program and I’m very excited to see how well they develop next year,” said Archibald.
It was obvious that the Royals were indeed the better squad and they clearly demonstrated that they are a legitimate contender for the 2019 state championship. Portland Christian has won 21 straight games and has a 23-1 record against Class 2A teams. Their only loss was 2-0 against the number one ranked Kennedy Trojans earlier this season.
Portland Christian has won all but one of its 12 NWL contests by a 3-0 sweep. The only time the Royals didn’t sweep was when they won 3-2 over the No. 6 ranked Vernonia Loggers on Oct. 10.