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Sports >  High school sports

Decade of dominance: Oakesdale volleyball continues winning tradition with unbeaten run through league play

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 1, 2021

By Madison McCord For The Spokesman-Review

Growing up in Pomeroy, McKinzie Turner knew just how much volleyball meant to the town of Oakesdale.

Now in her eighth season in charge of the Nighthawks program, Turner knows that success is not only appreciated by the players and community, but expected.

“It helps our girls to know that we have done this before and we can do it again,” Turner said. “But there is a little bit of pressure and it’s normal to put that pressure on ourselves when you have these high standards to live up to.”

Consider the standards exceeded.

The Oakesdale Nighthawks (17-0, 9-0 Southeast 1B East) have been the dominant force in Class 1B volleyball over the past decade, winning seven of the past nine state championships. They also have a second-place finish in 2019.

“We play with a lot of heart, which is something Oakesdale teams have always done over the years,” Oakesdale junior outside hitter Gianna Anderson said. “It’s a super cool environment and everyone is so close and kind. The team never lets anyone down.”

The Nighthawks are riding a 25-match winning streak in Southeast 1B East league play, but that doesn’t mean Oakesdale is without stiff competition in its own backyard.

Pomeroy handed Oakesdale its last league loss and last state tournament loss, both of which came in 2019. The Tigers swept the Nighthawks for the state title that season in Yakima, while the teams split their regular-season encounters.

Now St. John-Endicott/LaCrosse hopes to play the role of spoiler as the Nighthawks seek a return to the top.

The Eagles (14-3, 8-2) dropped a five-set thriller to Oakesdale at home earlier this season before being swept by the Nighthawks last Tuesday in Oakesdale. St. John-Endicott/LaCrosse coach Jennifer Johnson believes her team is more than capable of making a run at Oakesdale and a state title.

“Tonight simply wasn’t us,” Johnson said of the 3-0 loss on Oct. 26. “Beating teams like Tekoa-Rosalia and Colton 25-6, that’s us. It’s finding the way to move on point-by-point, playing point-by-point.

“This is a game where we have to put it away and remember it for when we hopefully play them in the district title game.”

The road to state begins Tuesday for both teams as Oakesdale hosts DeSales, while St. John-Endicott/LaCrosse hosts Touchet in first-round matches. A possible third showdown of the season could happen in Saturday’s title match, something Turner said her team needs no additional motivation for.

“Every match moving forward needs to be treated like a state championship match for us,” Turner said. “In 2015 when we beat Pomeroy for the state title, they were undefeated and it was the fourth or fifth time we had played them. So we know that can happen to us as well with a great team like St. John-Endicott/LaCrosse.”

If the Nighthawks can make it back into the state bracket, it would mean a return to the Yakima Valley SunDome on Nov. 11-12, a place they have had success both in the past and already this season.

Oakesdale dropped just one set en route to the championship at this year’s SunDome Volleyball Festival small-school tournament. Both the Nighthawks and St. John-Endicott/LaCrosse won their round-robin groups, with the Eagles losing to eventual runner-up Annie Wright .

With an in-season tournament and league titles already in hand, Turner knows her team is capable of adding yet another state title to a crowded trophy case in two weeks.

“The thing that makes Oakesdale special is we’re just a family,” Turner said. “We play together, we’re positive. It’s just a different community here, and we’re a really positive group of girls that believes in each other.”

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