EUGENE — On paper, Dallas’ volleyball team isn’t supposed to be here.
Just don’t tell that to the Dragons.
“They decided they didn’t want to lose,” coach Shana Lavier said. “Unless you were to see it, you wouldn’t believe it.”
Dallas, the 11th seed, defeated No. 6 Marist Catholic 25-22, 30-28, 25-23 in the first round of the 5A state playoffs on Saturday to advance to the quarterfinals on Friday at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.
The Dragons face No. 3 Bend, the defending state champions, at 3:15 p.m.
The winner advances to the semifinals against the winner of Lebanon vs. North Eugene Friday at 8:30 p.m. The loser goes into the consolation bracket.
Bend enters the match with a 19-6 record overall and 7-1 mark in Intermountain Conference play.
The Lava Bears defeated Silverton 25-19, 25-13, 25-10 on Saturday to advance to the quarterfinals.
“From here on out, everyone is good,” Lavier said. “Bend is a solid team. They have really good players who are going to attack all sides of the court.”
But the Dragons enter with confidence that they can overcome any obstacle.
Against Marist, Dallas fell behind 9-0 and 17-5 in the first set.
The Dragons roared back, winning 20 of the final 25 points of the first set.
Dallas also rallied from deficits late in the second (23-18) and third (22-17) sets to complete the sweep.
“It was insane,” senior Josie Smith said. “I know for me, moving from being on junior varsity as a junior to going to state as a senior is crazy.”
Tristin Savage had 14 kills, while Hailey VanWell added 10 kills. Jose Smith had 10 total blocks.
“They don’t want to be done,” Lavier said. “They want to keep going. I know a lot of teams around the state, they are exhausted. Our girls aren’t ready for this run to end.”
Dallas has gone 14-5 over its last 19 matches.
Lavier hopes a secret weapon will help push Dallas over the top.
Friday will mark the Dragons’ first trip to the quarterfinals since 1990, Lavier said.
Lavier played a role in ending Dallas’ season that year.
“What’s funny is the last time Dallas played in the state tournament it was against my high school team, Henley,” Lavier said. “We beat Dallas and ended up winning the state championship.”
From the moment Lavier started coaching volleyball, she had a mentor, someone there to help her out whenever she needed it.
“We have our own secret weapon,” Lavier said.
That weapon is Chuck Shannon.
Shannon coached for 25 years at Henley. He helped lead the school to three state titles (1990, ’91 and 2001), three second-place finishes and 20 Skyline Conference Championships.
“He’s been an integral part of this program since I’ve been head coach here,” Lavier said. “He’s a great resource. He talks to the girls. He shows huge support. One of the all-time winningest coaches in Oregon history happens to be my old coach and mentor.”
Players have taken advantage of having an added resource at their disposal, mostly during the early parts of the season. The lessons he shares sticks with them.
“He helps out with our volleyball camp during the summer,” Smith said. “I think what’s cool about Chuck is he offers a different perspective. He sees things about our play that we might not necessarily have seen. He helps us in overcoming adversity.”
Now, Dallas stands three wins away from an improbable state championship. The road will be tough, but don’t expect the Dragons to lay down.
“Call it a Cinderella story, call it whatever you want,” Lavier said. “The girls never gave up. No matter the score, they never lost sight of the goal, and now they’re going to the state tournament.”