The Lady Celts basketball (pictured) and softball teams each went undefeated in conference play and finished in the top four at state. The school’s volleyball team shared a conference title and advanced to the state tournament. KEIZERTIMES/File Photo

Of the Keizertimes

There’s domination, and then there’s the big hurt the Lady Celts varsity volleyball, basketball and softball teams put on the rest of the Central Valley Conference.

The McNary girls won 41 of 42 league games in these sports. They also went 3-for-3 in acquiring conference titles.

“Three conference championships in the same year is a rarity,” said Molly Gehley, head coach for the Lady Celts basketball team. “This class of girls is very focused, talented in the classroom and on the field.”

This accomplishment is so rare, in fact, that those close to the scene report this is a McNary first.

Applying the big hurt wasn’t limited to conference rivals. The basketball and softball teams placed in the top four in state while the volleyball squad reached elite eight status.

“I think the other interesting thing with the girls is how deep they went into the playoffs in each sport,” said Gehley.

One trait the three teams shared was the ability to build on their success. The basketball team showed three-game improvements each year during the regular season for three years. The hoopsters were 3-9 in 2007, 6-6 in 2008, 9-3 in 2009 and 12-0 in 2010.

McNary volleyball coach Dustin Walker noted the girls’ chemistry.

“They are a close group of girls off the court and it shows on the court when they play,” said Walker.

Softball coach Jeff Auvinen agreed.

Maintaining positive relationships between “girls is vital, and it can made a huge difference,” said Auvinen. “When they feel good about hanging out with a group, they just let it out and let it loose. It just makes a world of difference when they’re relaxed and having fun.”

McNary Athletic Director Mike Maghan noted this sense of cohesiveness began developing years ago.

“This girls’ group have had lots of experience competing from third grade on,” said Maghan. “They know each other, and they like each other.”

The girls are also smart. Each team scored a cumulative grade point average that exceeded 3.50.

“It’s really easy to coach kids who are driven academically because it transfers over to their sports,” said Walker. “Kids that are driven to be successful academically are usually driven to succeed athletically.”

The Lady Celts are old-school when it comes to specialization, with many of the teams’ stars playing more than one sport.

“In the realm of specialization, sometimes I think it’s hard for multiple sports to carry on because all the girls play volleyball for a couple of years, and then all the girls play basketball for a couple of years,” said Auvinen. “This group hasn’t done that as much. You have some three-sporters and you have some two-sporters” on the softball team, for example.”

Last but not least, there’s the overabundance of raw talent to consider.

“It’s a deep class of girls, with very good athletes … and they continued to stay hungry, and they continued to work hard in their trade, be it basketball, volleyball or softball.

“It’s just a good group of kids personality-wise that are nice kids, that are hard workers, and have worked real hard at it. They kind of looked at this senior year and said that we want to make some waves, and they have,” said Auvinen.