Confident Ashland off to state

The odds are stacked against them, but senior defensive specialist Elizabeth Westmoreland believes that the Ashland Grizzlies can go all the way this weekend at the Class 5A state volleyball tournament.

But, she was quick to add, it will take a monumental effort, great communication, pinpoint execution and focus. In other words, the No. 3-ranked Grizzlies will have to play the way they did against Mountain View five days ago.

"It's just a matter of having everyone on at the same time," Westmoreland said, recalling Ashland's Game 4 comeback in last Saturday's playoff win. "We didn't have to say anything, but we just knew that we could win. We just buckled down and believed in it."

Ashland's quest for the program's second state title begins Friday afternoon at Liberty High School in Hillsboro, where the Grizzlies will take on No. 11 St. Helens in a best-of-five-game quarterfinal match. The winner will advance to play No. 2 Crook County or No. 8 Thurston in the semifinals Friday night. On the bottom half of the eight-team bracket, No. 1 Summit faces unranked Liberty and No. 7 Sherwood takes on No. 5 West Albany.

The trophy matches will be played Saturday, with the championship match scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

Ashland's a perennial placer at state, but hasn't advanced beyond the semifinals since its state championship run in 2005. The Grizzlies would like to change that this time around, but doing so will require a major upset. Three-time defending state champion Crook County will be a major obstacle should the Grizzlies advance to the semis, and beyond that lies Summit, which already has a pair of straight-game victories over the Grizzlies this season.

Ashland will be the favorite in at least one match in Hillsboro. The St. Helens Lions finished second in the Northwest Oregon Conference, but haven't placed at state since 1989. The Lions have proven to be a resilient bunch, however. They lost their regular season finale to Liberty, but bounced back a week later in the playoffs to beat Jefferson, 25-15, 25-11, 25-16, on the road.

The Grizzlies insist they won't have any trouble staying focused against St. Helens after last year's shocking quarterfinal loss to West Albany.

"Last year we looked past West Albany, and that was a really devastating loss," Westmoreland said.

"We're playing for the championship, so we're taking every game like it's for the championship," added senior middle blocker Niki Small. "Our biggest goal is just to not overlook the smaller teams, and then we're still going to be prepared for when we hopefully play Crook County and hopefully play Summit. We're just hoping that we get a good chance to show what we've got."

Ashland enters the quarterfinals on a high note after its spectacular Game 4 comeback. The sixth-ranked Cougars led 21-13, but four points away from a fifth game the Grizzlies roared back. Aided by five consecutive Cougar attack errors, the Grizzlies won the next seven points to get within one, then finished the rally behind strong net play by senior hitter Hayley Ross and junior middle Samantha Boehnke.

"This team has a lot of heart and they have a lot of drive," Ashland head coach Jodee Scott said.

The Grizzlies have earned four straight state tournament trophies for placing fourth in'06 and '08, third in '07 and first in '05. The OSAA awards trophies to teams that place in the top six.

Match results will be posted at

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