Columbia River teams up on Prairie for 3A district volleyball title

Columbia River has sights set on more this postseason

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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The Columbia River Chieftains were tied late in the second game of their district volleyball championship match with Prairie on Tuesday.

This could have been a moment when a star player took over, willing her team to victory.

The Chieftains do not need that, though. They have plenty of talent to take them where they want to go this postseason.

Evi Wilson got a kill. Trisha Johnson followed with a kill of her own. After a River point, Brooke Williams got a block. Later, it was Morgan Bergerud and Esti Wilson with kills.

Five players all took turns doing their thing, leading the Chieftains to victory.

That is how this team won the district championship, beating Prairie in three games: 25-16, 25-21, 25-17.

And this is how the Chieftains went undefeated in 11 matches this season against Class 3A Greater St. Helens League teams. Columbia River will advance to the bi-district tournament as the 3A Greater St. Helens League's top seed.

"It honestly doesn't matter who gets the kill because it honestly is a team kill," said Evi Wilson, who led the team with 12 kills. "Each person is special for each play."

Columbia River coach Moe Melhart said there was a time, earlier in her career, when she might have directed her setter to get the ball to one particular player during a tight game. Not anymore.

"My girls feel comfortable with anybody on the court," Melhart said. "I trust all of my players. No matter who or how they get the ball, they're going to do the best with it."

Prairie advanced to the championship match with a thrilling four-game victory over Mountain View earlier in the evening at Columbia River High School. Kaylee Warren had 13 kills in the victory, then added seven kills in the title match. Huong Nguyen had 11 kills in the first match and six in the second.

The Falcons were hoping to get a boost from their win over Mountain View to carry them against Columbia River. It was tied 8-8 in the first game, with the Chieftains making several errors.

Columbia River regrouped.

"We just had to let each other know we are going to win together, 12-strong, and we believe in each other," Williams said, referring to the post-point huddles with her teammates.

Whatever was said, it worked. River scored eight of the next nine points to take control.

The second game was close throughout, tied at 19 before the Chieftains got all those points from those different players, pulling away for a four-point victory.

Columbia River erased a three-point deficit early in the third game and cruised to the eight-point win.

It was Prairie that won this tournament last season en route to a state championship. Now, Columbia River has big dreams. This was the second step, after winning league.

"We worked all summer long, and it's just so great because we knew it was possible, and it's happening," Williams said.

With all the Chieftains contributing in one way or another.

"We couldn't do it without each other," Evi Wilson said. "We're pushing each other every single day in practice."

Correction

In our story on Columbia River volleyball in Tuesday's edition, the Columbia River coach was referred to by her maiden name. Moe Perez was the 4A GSHL player of the year from Heritage in 2003. Now the coach at River, she is Moe Melhart.