BONANZA – The Antlers aren’t just excellent; they revel in their excellence.
They know they’re excellent, expect it, celebrate it.
Between sets of the first round of Class 2A playoffs, the Antlers were dancing, laughing, play fighting, joking on the bench. Bonanza was relaxed, at ease, comfortable.
And maybe a little arrogant. But don’t they deserve to be?
Undefeated in Southern Cascade League, just four losses on the season, riding a six-game sweep streak into the playoffs.
Actually, make that seven straight sweeps.
In a 25-9, 25-11, 25-20 decision the No. 8 seeded Antlers advanced past No. 9 seed Delphian handsomely, allowing only 20 points in the first two sets, to reach the 2A State Championship Tournament.
In their final home game with Bonanza, senior Nevaeh Nelson had 16 assists with seven kills, senior Chloe Oates had nine kills and senior Grace Lee had four. Sophomore libero Madalyn Cory had 10 digs.
According to head coach Donna Romtvedt, the Antlers, especially the team’s three sophomores were nervous ahead of Saturday’s first round match, but it hardly showed in Bonanza’s confident poise.
In typical Bonanza fashion, the Antlers made quick work of their opponents.
“In the first two sets we played as well as we’ve played all year,” Romtvedt said. “Delphian made some mistakes – quite a few mistakes, but we just didn’t make mistakes at all.
“In the first two sets, they were really almost flawless,” she said.
The Antler’s first- and second-set defensive sent Delphian railing, forcing the Dragons to make mistake after mistake.
But Bonanza’s trouble came in the third set, as the Dragons started to adjust to the Antlers defense and make offensive plays.
“I think we were just so excited that we got ahead of ourselves,” senior Grace Lee said.
The third set was by far the closest, with the Dragons earning their first lead and holding it for 19 points.
On a 6-0 run, the Antlers recovered to retake the lead at 15-14.
“I don’t want to say over-confident, but they got this almost we-got-this feeling,” Romtvedt said. “You can’t ever relax in volleyball because momentum can swing really easily.”
Bonanza charged ahead once they gained the lead, with the Dragons’ trailing closely behind but never quite catching the Antlers for the upset.
A seven-year-old dream is what pushed Bonanza’s in the final set.
Since fifth grade, Bonanza’s six seniors have dreamed of making it to state together in their final year.
“We wanted it so bad and just realizing this would be our last game on our home court, we just kicked it into gear,” Oates said.
Behind the sweep, the Antlers now prepare for No. 1 seed Kennedy, who they will face in Friday’s quarterfinal match at 8 a.m. in Redmond.
It’s the first time most of Romtvedt’s team has been to the state tournament. The last time the Antlers’ advanced was in 2016, this years’ seniors’ freshman year.
“I’m anxious for next weekend,” sophomore libero Madalyn Cory said. “It’s super exciting since it is the first time in a couple years that we’re going.”
Bonanza is looking for another first: the state title.
The Antlers’ have never won state, settling for third-place on several occasions, but Romtvedt and her group of confident seniors just may make it all the way.
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