Gerry Steele
The Baker City Herald

By Gerry Steele

NORTH POWDER - Powder Valley has finished second at the Class 1A state volleyball tournament each of the past two seasons.

Coach Lasa Baxter, the Badgers' mentor since 2006, said that is both a plus and a minus as the Badgers get set to make another run at the state title.

"It certainly adds incentive," Baxter said. "But it also ads a lot more pressure on us."

Baxter said the Badgers aren't going to deal with a possible third straight trip to the 1A title match until, and if, it comes up in November.

"For us getting back to the championship match is obviously a goal. But, I'm not going to dwell on it early in the season," she said.

"We're going to gauge what we can, and do our best every match," Baxter said.

"We have a mission, but we're going to take it one day at a time."

Making that mission just a little bit easier is the fact that the Badgers, the defending Old Oregon League champions as well, lost just two players to graduation from a year ago.

Leading the returning players are seniors Jessica Pedro, the Class 1A player of the year, and Ali Abrego.

Pedro returns after suffering a season-ending knee injury just before the playoffs in basketball last winter.

"She has done her rehab and has come back to us healthy," Baxter said.

The Powder coach said the team has had to deal with many outside distractions during the off-season.

"Our team has had a lot of obstacles," she said. "We hope it will bond us more tightly together."

The other returning players are Alexandra Colton, Taylor Martin, McKinsey Hampton, Amy Eubanks, Jenna Aldrich and Lexie Price.

Bailee Allen, a transfer from Baker High School, also is on the team.

"We do have a small squad, but a high level squad," Baxter said.

"And, we've had a lot of support from the community. We'll have a good season."