State Tournaments the Real Adventure in Athletics

Everyone seems to think club sports are all that, but those people maybe haven’t experienced the magic of 3A sports when it comes to state tournaments. When you start looking at statewide matchups, you often need to Google where your opponent is from, or where you are traveling to compete. Boys’ soccer played Nyssa, girls’ soccer hosted Echo/Standfield, and girls’ volleyball traveled to Scio and Creswell—places that are often outliers of the proximity of our Lewis & Clark League.

(Pictured: Kate P. `24 takes a shot vs. Echo/Stanfield during the shutout win Tuesday.  Photo Courtesy of Maddie Evans.)

On Saturday, the girls’ varsity volleyball team and their parents gathered for lunch and then made their way through the I-5 South traffic to Scio (outside of Stayton), arriving just in time to get warmed up for the match. As I drove up Scio’s Main Street, the yard art and signs on the corner said it all: “Playoff Game Tonight 6 p.m. You are so loved.”  

Pulling into the parking lot of Scio High School, it was amazing to see the crowd and community that came out to cheer on their Loggers. There was a taco truck for tailgating parked in the middle of the parking lot and everyone was decked out in the school colors of orange and black. Hay bales still lined the hallway where the school had hosted a homecoming dance the night before, what looked to be a barn theme.

The Varks arrived to find goodie bags on their bench with volleyball keychains and candy inside. This was a very thoughtful and welcoming gesture from the hometown team! 

The quaint Scio gym was packed with energy and enthusiasm. The hometown sense of pride and community was evident everywhere as they were prepared to celebrate the success of their volleyball team in the state tournament. The small group of OES parents, a handful of their friends, and [Athletic Director] Dennis Sullivan and I decided to bring the noise on behalf of the Aardvarks. OES parents Googled cheers, belted them out, and stomped their feet in the bleachers, believing it would be our small crowd energy that would propel the girls to victory.  

The Varks rallied hard in this back and forth match, down as many as nine points in two of the sets, but went on and upset the #5 ranked Loggers, advancing in the tournament. 

I made my second drive down I-5 this week for what would prove to be the Varks last volleyball game of the season. The hopes of what could be for this young team were at the forefront of their minds and mine. 

I wondered if OES’s girls’ varsity volleyball team could go into another guest gym—full of boisterous, community-minded fans—for the second time in four days and pull off the upset as they had so magically done on Saturday night at Scio. 

As I pulled into Creswell High School (outside of Eugene) I found the parking lot packed once again. The sea of red and black of the Creswell Bulldogs was everywhere you looked. The band was jamming and the crowd was raucous.  The visiting Aardvark parents would be sequestered to the corner of the gym farthest away from our team to the visitor’s section. There was no chance our girls would be able to hear us cheer as the packed house and the band would drown out any noise we would attempt to make. The Bulldogs once again showed me a community coming together to celebrate the successes of their team. 

Our boys’ soccer team beat Nyssa Thursday night 8-0 in front of a minuscule OES home crowd. The Nyssa team supporters made the six-hour drive across the state to Portland and outnumbered the Varks home cheering section.    

Sometimes I wonder if OES takes for granted the accomplishments of our student-athletes and what it means to qualify for the state tournaments?  Yesterday was a great opportunity for our OES community to walk across campus as soon as school was out and cheer the boys on to victory, in their only home match of the tournament. Sure, the boys won handily at home. But it would have been nice for them to see and hear more support from our community.

The boys will now take their turn going down I-5 tomorrow with a long road trip to Brookings Harbor.  This drive will take the team into California and back over to the Oregon Coast. They will travel 337 miles one way to battle for a chance to move on in the 3A state tournament. They will have the opportunity to experience all of the wonderful things that the volleyball team experienced traveling to the small town communities to compete. 

I realized that this hometown feeling I was able to experience firsthand this week is one thing that OES could learn from and grow into. It reminded me of our homecoming events before Covid when the entire OES community would come together to celebrate being together and our athletes in a positive way. It was the one time each year that I felt that hometown spirit and pride erupt on our campus. I hope that we will someday find a way to make every home game special for our student-athletes or at least the state playoff games that are hard-earned and should be celebrated on the home courts and fields.

Link to listen in to the boy’s soccer game live broadcasted by Todd Mansfield Saturday at 1 p.m.

Aardvark Sports Corner Highlights

Soccer

Boys Soccer

After securing the number #1 spot in the state for 3A/2A/1A classifications, the Girls’ Varsity Soccer team headed into the postseason ready for business. Securing the top spot in the playoff bracket comes with its perks because your team gets to host, and doesn’t have to travel. But in a state where being a lower-seeded team doesn’t necessarily mean an automatic loss, that first playoff game can still be stressful. The underdog has everything to gain, and the top seed has everything to lose. The Echo/Stanfield team (6-2-2) traveled up I-84 from Umatilla County hoping to do just that. The girls’ varsity team was unfazed, scoring seven unanswered goals over 80 minutes. The Varks defense was solid, and the offense dominated and created many chances to score. The girls host Riverside on Saturday at home at 1:30 p.m. for the quarterfinals. Click here for tickets.

#5 ranked Boys’ Varsity Soccer took on Nyssa on Wednesday afternoon and ended the match with the mercy rule 8-0.  Connor M. `22 had an amazing night finding the back of the net five times with the most impressive goal being a header off a beautiful corner kick by Patrick R. `22  Torben K. `22 also scored off of an assist by Connor M. `22 and Barrett L. `23 also scored. One of the corner kicks also found the back of the net off a Nyssa player.  The boys are off to Brookings Harbor and will play at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Click here for tickets. (Pictured: Braden C. `23 holding down the defense in the shutout vs. Nyssa. Photo courtesy of Maddie Evans.)

Cross Country

Cross Country

The cross country boys and girls are off to the state meet on Saturday.  They had a great showing at the District meet at Sherwood last Friday. The boys won the District tournament and the girls took third place. The notable individual finishers were Olin G. `23 (third), Tyler E. `22 (fourth), and on the girls’ side Morgan M. `24 (ninth). The boys’ team also recorded top 15 finishes for the race which helped them secure the victory. The girls’ will race at 10 a.m. and the boys will race at 11 a.m. at Lane Community College in Eugene. Click here for tickets. (Pictured: Olin G. `23 and Tyler E. `22 leading the pack at the start of the XC districts.)