Probably the cruelest reality in sports is that all streaks eventually come to an end, but that is also one of the reasons we love to compete. The emotional highs that come from a great run are talked about for years and remembered forever. There won’t be a third straight trip to the quarterfinals for the Beaverton volleyball team, they lost to McBain 21-25, 15-25, 20-25, but they didn’t go down without a fight. Coach Steve Evans said last week that his team was prepared for big moments and “if someone was going to beat us they are going to have to take us out.” McBain was up to that challenge, but it wasn’t easy.
The Ramblers got off to a quick start in the first set taking an early 4-0 lead before the Beavers battled back to go ahead 6-5. McBain went on another run to open a 12-7 lead, before the Beavers came back once again to tie the score 12-12. A bad bounce on a ball off the ceiling stopped the five-point Beaverton run and the teams’ traded points before McBain outscored Beaverton 6-3 down the stretch to take the set.
It was Beaverton’s turn to get off to a fast start in the second set as they built a 9-3 lead before. The Ramblers are extremely athletic and have good size which caused the Beavers problems especially after they got going in the second set. They took over at the net and forced Beaverton into some uncharacteristic errors on their way to a 25-15 win.
Trailing 2-0 the Beavers didn’t give up. After trading points early in the third set Beaverton took a 20-16 lead and looked like they were going to get back in the match. But like Beaverton did so many times over the last two years McBain regrouped. The Ramblers took a timeout then scored nine straight points to take the set 25-20, and the match 3-0.
Four seniors played well for Beaverton in their final match; Hannah Stearns had seven kills, Alexis Grove two kills, 16 digs, Sawyer Gerow 14 digs and exchange student Franzi Grummt made some nice serves. Juniors Leiyah Mungin five kills, seven assists, Faith Danielak four kills, and sophomore Kaelyn Fischer added 12 assists. “We had a great season and I’m proud of our girls,” said Coach Steve Evans. “They gave us all they had all season.”
This year’s group of seniors have had an almost magical run. During their four years in high school the Beavers have been to four Regional finals, two quarter finals and have made two trips to Battle Creek for the Final Four. Other than winning a state championship, there was nothing they haven’t seen. They set a high bar for those that follow.
The cupboard is far from bare for the Beavers who seem to reload rather than rebuild. Beside the girls mentioned previously several other girls got significant playing time this season including juniors Becca Claypool and Taylor McCormack. Younger players, Laken Longstreth, Karley Fischer, Bryar Pollard and Eva Reader spent a season practicing against some of the best competition in mid Michigan. As Evans told me last week, “when you do that every day for three months you will be surprised how ready you are to go to that next level.” It’s unlikely that any of those girls will be too surprised. They have watched others come up as youngsters and eventually become important parts of a winning program.
The Beavers do have several streaks still intact including five straight Regional finals, five straight district titles and three straight undefeated Jack Pine Conference seasons. As they reflected on their four yours in the program last week Stearns, Grove and Gerow all talked about the importance of their culture. All three attribute their ability to effectively replace players lost to graduation to its strength.
No one will feel sorry for the Beavers next year and everyone in the conference will be gunning for their crown. A fourth straight conference championship and a sixth straight Regional finals will probably depend on how well that culture has been passed on. With a group of new leaders itching to take over, I wouldn’t bet against Beaverton.