BYRON – Devyn Absher slowly strode toward the Oregon cheering section, receiving many condolences when she got there. Then the senior sat in the first row with her head in her hands, tears flowing.
Absher’s high school volleyball career had just ended with the Hawks’ 25-13, 25-22 loss to Dakota on Thursday night in the Class 2A Byron Sectional championship.
Though Absher’s career came to an end, all but one of the other Hawks will be back.
“They have a lot of talent coming up. They can definitely do it again next year,” said Absher, who had team highs of six kills and three aces.
“We have a lot of young players, and we can build on this for next year,” said sophomore Emy Wright, who had five kills. “We have a lot of work to do over the summer, but I think we can go further next year.”
Oregon (27-12-1) had its hands more than full with 5-foot-11 junior Sarah Thompson and Dakota (34-4), the 2011 Class 1A state champion that does not have a single senior on the team. The Indians defeated the Hawks 22-25, 25-12, 25-21 on Sept. 1.
Thompson piled up 12 kills and four aces, both match highs. She put down four early kills and two aces, as the Indians bolted to a 15-5 advantage minutes into the action. From there, Dakota coasted to the 25-13 opening-set win.
“The first game, we were a little bit nervous,” Oregon sophomore setter Delaney Mahoney said. “Usually we can pick it up. It just took us too long to pick it up this time.”
The Hawks showed much more fight in Set 2. A kill and an ace from Absher and a kill by Hailey Long helped Oregon to a 6-4 edge. The Hawks took their last lead at 9-8 on a kill by Wright.
A quick 7-0 flurry put Dakota on top 15-9. Two straight Absher kills cut the margin to 16-14.
Trailing 23-17, then 24-19, Oregon was not about to throw in the towel. The Hawks fought off three match points, making it 24-22 after a Wright kill and a pair of Indian errors.
But Oregon could not come all the way back, as an Absher hitting error ended the match.
Absher was proud of her team’s accomplishments.
“We did what a lot of people didn’t expect us to do,” Absher said. “We knew we had it in us. We impressed ourselves. That’s what matters.”
Star of the match: Sarah Thompson, Dakota, match highs in kills (12) and aces (4)
Key performers: Devyn Absher, Oregon, team highs in kills (6) and aces (3); Emy Wright, Oregon, 5 kills; Rachel Buck, Dakota, 5 kills