Columbia River Rapids rule Clark County’s sports landscape

Some members of the Columbia River volleyball and girls soccer teams showcase their trophies. Both teams won state championships Saturday night. Photo by Paul Valencia
Some members of the Columbia River volleyball and girls soccer teams showcase their trophies. Both teams won state championships Saturday night. Photo by Paul Valencia. Edited by Andi Schwartz

Athletes thank the community for their support after winning high school state championships in volleyball and girls soccer

The Columbia River volleyball players had just finished singing the fight song, holding on to the state championship trophy they had earned in Yakima when they heard even more incredible news.

“Soccer won!” somebody screamed.

“It was like we celebrated a whole ‘nother state championship,” senior volleyball player Lauren Dreves said. “We knew soccer was in the state final when we headed on the court. We were like, ‘I really hope soccer is going to take it this year.’ When we figured it out, it was another breath of fresh air. It’s so cool we both get to celebrate this.”

Columbia River volleyball and Columbia River girls soccer won state titles within minutes of each other Saturday.  

“We were all with our parents and our community. We were with the trophy,” soccer player Maree Seibel said. “I heard someone say, ‘Volleyball won.’ We were all freaking out, like ‘No way!’ I was so excited to go back to school. It was just so exciting.”

As students showed up for class on Monday, they walked past both state championship trophies in the main lobby in front of the office. It is believed that it is the first time that a school from Clark County has won traditional team sport state championships on the same day. 

On Monday afternoon, Clark County Today visited with players from both teams to get their perspectives on the historic event.

Before they would combine for this achievement, each team had to take care of business in competition.

The River volleyball team won its second consecutive state title with its performance on Saturday. The Rapids had to get past rival Ridgefield one more time, too. 

Ridgefield had won the previous two state titles before Columbia River beat Ridgefield in the state finals last year. Then last week, Ridgefield beat River in the district tournament. Sure enough, the two epic programs clashed again in this year’s state title match.

“The winning moment for us was a way better feeling because we did lose in district,” Sophie Worden said. “We really needed that loss. It exploited all of our weaknesses. We came back and we practiced harder. To sweep Ridgefield was an amazing feeling after being so close to them all season.”

The River soccer team is a fixture at state, reaching the final four the past six tournaments. This year’s seniors also won it all as freshman, back in 2019.

On Saturday, the Rapids secured a 1-0 victory over Sehome. 

The official blew his whistle three times to signal the end of the match.

“Everyone felt an overwhelming sense of happiness and being proud of everyone,” said Andie Buckley, who scored the only goal of the championship match. “Everyone rushed the field. Hugs everywhere. Tears everywhere. We were just so happy.”

Then that happiness spread throughout the Columbia River Rapids Triangle, from Vancouver, to Yakima, to Shoreline, with Rapids everywhere cheering the dual championships.

“We got to ride the yellow limo back, the bus,” said soccer player Avah Eslinger. “We stopped for Cold Stone ice cream.”

Amelie Miller noted that the team stopped at the same ice cream shop after winning state in 2019. Miller was not sure that it was a tradition, but she expects it to become a tradition now.

“It was such a surreal experience being on the bus ride home,” soccer player Avery Siegel said. “Not only because we were so ecstatic and happy. But thinking about the seniors, and the last game. It kind of broke a bit of my heart off just knowing that was the last experience, the last bus ride home with everybody after a big win. It was the best way to go out.”

The volleyball team traveled in two vehicles to and from Yakima. The team received the state trophy that is returned each year to the WIAA to hand out to the next champion, and a trophy that the school gets to keep. So the players had a trophy in each van, and just like last year, they stopped at Dairy Queen to celebrate with blizzards.

In a show of hands, a majority of athletes on both teams played school or club ball in the other sport, too. So they have an appreciation of the skill set needed to be championship worthy.

In high school, though, the athletes must pick a sport. Both are played during the fall season.

“I’ve been playing soccer my whole life,”  Seibel said. “Volleyball was more of a middle school sport. It was all for friends and everything. I’ve been playing soccer for 13 years.”

Dreves played both sports, too, but she liked volleyball just a little more, plus, she said she was better at volleyball. 

“That’s how I decided,” she said. “I still like watching soccer.”

The schedules for athletes can be a crunch. The soccer team did get to watch the volleyball team once this year. The volleyball team would often go to a soccer match after their match or practice had ended.

River supports River.

“It was super fun,” Taegen Benke said. “I have a lot of friends on the soccer team. It was fun being able to cheer them on and watch them play because they’re really amazing. Having that atmosphere with my teammates and everyone else in the crowd, it’s just really fun.”

The athletes also have theories as to how each team excels.

“In volleyball, they have so much talent. It’s working with the talent and figuring out how to support each other and working all together,” Buckley said.

Chemistry matters.

“I think there is a really good community at River,” added Sasha Pelkey, a volleyball player. “Each different sport has its own culture. All the girls on the team always end up being best friends. It gels together and each team is super successful.”

Senior leadership is key, as well.

“Winning it this year, and volleyball winning it two times, that just really sets the standard for the legacy that the 23s brought,” said soccer player Logann Dukes, Class of 2023. “Everybody was so amazing. All the juniors, sophomores, and freshmen, they made such an impact. But I think it was amazing that they believed in the seniors so much and loved them, that we were able to bring the win together.”

This was the fifth state championship for the girls soccer program.

“Coach talks about legacy,” Miller said. “We’re all extremely proud of ourselves. We’ll forever have the fifth star on the crest that we put there, and we’ll forever contribute to the River legacy. It sets the tone for the future years for River’s success.”

This is the fourth state championship for the volleyball program.

“It shows how strong River is, not only in the community, but with our coaches,” Worden said. “It takes a lot to win a state title.”

On Monday, these giants of their sports returned to campus.

“School was just really exciting today. I wore our state championship sweatshirt. We have the championship patch. We’d start talking about how we won and how volleyball won,” said soccer player Kinzi Drake. “Everybody was really excited that we both got the win at the same time.”

Returning to school just made that feeling from a special weekend last a little longer.

“It was nice to come back to the community, with all the support they gave us through the whole journey,” Dreves said. “Leaving the building (to go to state), they were ‘You guys got this!’ Coming back with the trophy made it that much better to know we did it for the community.”

Administration weighs in

Jenn Johnson, a former soccer coach herself, is the new athletic director at Columbia River. She said she is thrilled to lead a department with such incredible coaches.

Breanne Smedley (volleyball) and Filomon Afenegus (soccer) give their teams a competitive edge because they are always implementing new ideas and concepts, Johnson said. It is not just X’s and O’s and talent that led to the titles.

“Whether it’s mental training or socially emotional check-ins with their athletes, they’re always trying to do something extra,” Johnson said.

Johnson and her family went to Shoreline to watch soccer while associate principal Rob Duncan went to Yakima to watch volleyball. Johnson said it was a tough decision either way, but both administrators got to experience something special. The two were exchanging texts throughout the championship matches.

“It was emotional,” Johnson said of the soccer finale. “It was a culmination of all of the characteristics that Filomon attempts to implement within his program. It was truly a living culmination of all the things he does on a daily basis. So great to see that come into fruition.”

Historical significance

There are nine traditional team sports that the WIAA sanctions — sports with no individual placings — and only a few times in a year are championships played on the same day. Volleyball and girls soccer share a championship night. Boys and girls basketball share a championship night. And baseball, softball, and boys soccer share the day in the spring.

With that said, it appears that Columbia River’s accomplishment on Saturday marks the first time that a school from Clark County has won two team titles on the same day.

Camas did win a football and girls soccer title in the same season in 2016. But not on the same day. 

There have been several years when different schools from Clark County have won state titles on the same day, such as Prairie and Washougal girls basketball in 2019. Hockinson and Union football won on the same day in 2017, for example, as well.

The best chance for teams from the same school to accomplish the feat is in the spring, when there are three team sports holding championships on the same day. But again, we did not find any time one school has won two titles on the same day. 

Until Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022 … Columbia River Rapids Day.

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