VIDEO: Volleyball, led by Ridgefield, stands tall in Clark County

More local volleyball teams made it to state last year than in any other sport

All hail volleyball.

This week, league play began in the state’s greatest Class 2A volleyball league, with powerhouses Ridgefield and Columbia River opening with victories.

Ridgefield’s Emilea Stepaniuk says it is stressful trying to defend a state title, but it is fun stress. Other teams want to knock off the champs, and that just makes the Spudders even more focused. Photo by Mike Schultz
Ridgefield’s Emilea Stepaniuk says it is stressful trying to defend a state title, but it is fun stress. Other teams want to knock off the champs, and that just makes the Spudders even more focused. Photo by Mike Schultz

Next month, league play will begin in the 4A Greater St. Helens League, the 3A GSHL, as well as the Trico League.

By the end of the season, recent history suggests a number of teams will be moving on to state. Perhaps more than in any other sport. 

More Clark County teams qualified for state in volleyball than in any other traditional team sport last school year — boys or girls teams. In all, nine programs made the state’s Sweet 16 in volleyball, with Ridgefield winning the Class 2A state championship.

Along the way to that title, the Spudders beat Columbia River in the state semifinals. (Columbia River would end up in fourth place.) Woodland also made it to 2A state, taking home the sixth-place trophy. Yes, three of the top six teams in the state came from the 2A Greater St. Helens League.

Camas represented the 4A GSHL at state. Prairie (sixth place) and Mountain View tied for the 3A GSHL crown last year and both later qualified for state. From the Trico League, King’s Way Christian and La Center made it to state. And in Class 1B, Firm Foundation reached state.

Three other sports — girls soccer, boys basketball, and softball — had seven teams reach the final 16. 

For 2018-18 academic year, volleyball stood alone at the top.

The Ridgefield Spudders hope to lead the sport back to the top again.

Delaney Nicoll, last year’s Class 2A state Player of the Year, along with first-team all-leaguer Emilea Stepaniuk have returned. Plus several other key Spudders from the title run are back.

“We don’t have to be perfect. We just have to play our game,” Stepaniuk said. “But there is a lot of pressure on us, and a lot of expectations on us.”

Playing in the 2A GSHL, the Spudders do not have time to relax.

“It’s definitely competitive, but it’s definitely a lot of fun,” Stepaniuk said, adding that she prefers a league that is challenging over a league that just has a bunch of easy matchups. 

Playing in the 2A GSHL makes the Spudders better, in hopes of being the best in the state by the end of the year. Expectations change once a team wins a state title.

“Winning league is awesome,” Ridgefield coach Sabrina Dobbs said, “but it’s the end that counts. We really focus on the end of our season more so than just finishing out in league.”

Dobbs credits the entire region for building up the sport in recent years. Yes, she believes her Spudders can be better than last year, but she also said other teams are better, too. 

Volleyball is getting bigger in the Vancouver area and more competitive,” she said, noting all classifications.

Note: In honor of Ridgefield’s volleyball title last year, we produced a video. Just wanted you to “get to know” the defending state champions.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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