Columbia River puts up united front in volleyball

All in this together, Chieftains undefeated in Class 3A GSHL play

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

There was a minor issue one day regarding one of the Columbia River volleyball players.

It could have been a member of the varsity, the junior varsity, or even someone from the freshman squad.

No one was identified as the culprit.

And, no one cares, according to senior leaders Morgan Bergerud, Maggie Harshaw, and Trisha Johnson.

They were all in this together.

For better or worse.

Fortunately for the Chieftains, there have been a lot more “better” moments this year. Undefeated in the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League, the Chieftains play Tuesday night in the district championship match.

But before they got to this stage of the season, they had some cleaning up to do, to take care of that earlier issue.

One Friday after school, the volleyball program managed many of the janitorial duties. The varsity team was in charge of the girls bathrooms.

“We got the job done,” Harshaw said.

“We all had the integrity to take responsibility for our actions,” Johnson added.

Please note the “our” in that sentence. It might have been one person who found trouble, but it was the entire program that worked to get out of trouble.

“Nobody pointed fingers,” Johnson said. “We all just accepted it.”

That sounds a lot like how the volleyball team excels on the court, in practices and in matches.

“If we’re not doing something we should be doing, we hold each other accountable,” Bergerud said.

“It’s not a personal attack,” Harshaw explained. “We know each of us is there to make each other better. You want the person next to you to be great.”

That has been the way of Columbia River volleyball for years. These seniors — Bergerud, Harshaw, Johnson, Kelime Rae, Morgan Waite, Alexis Cartwright, and Isabelle Crary — were freshmen when coach Moe Perez took over the program.

They remember being welcomed by the seniors.

“They just felt like older sisters,” Harshaw recalled.

That is the expectation at Columbia River volleyball, that every athlete on every team is part of the family.

That togetherness makes for a better product on the floor. They win or they lose, with one another.

“I just want my kids to get better every single time they touch the ball,” Perez said. “We never approach a game talking about winning or losing. Win in three (games), or win in five. Lose in three, lose in five. It doesn’t matter. We just want to improve.”

The Chieftains took some hits in the non-league schedule, facing several of the area’s top 4A programs. Perez said she just asked what the players learned from those defeats, then moved on to league play.

Columbia River then went 30-1 in games during their 10-0 run to the league title.

A year ago, the Chieftains finished second in league, second in district, and then won the bi-district tournament. At state, the Chieftains won a match before losing two tough ones. Meanwhile, Prairie won four in a row to win the championship.

“It was sad because it wasn’t us, but it was motivating because they are around here,” Harshaw said. “They are in our league.”

Perez said it was good for her players to see because they knew it was possible. While the Chieftains don’t want to look ahead, they acknowledge they have long-term goals.

“We’ve talked about being the team that wins its last (match) of the year,” Perez said.

At the same time, Perez said, this team has already exceeded so many expectations.

The Chieftains are a family, all of their teams working as one program.

Together.