The brackets have been released for the OSAA 6A volleyball state championship, and the No. 8 McNary Celtics are at home for the first two rounds, with a familiar foe lined up for them in the second round.
If both can come away successful in the first round, McNary (19-5, 9-3) will host No. 9 Sprague on Saturday, Oct. 29, the fourth meeting between the conference rivals this season.
The Olympians (20-8, 10-2) took the regular season series 2-1, including the Oct. 13 match at McNary that clinched the Central Valley Conference for them. McNary won the first meeting between the two on Sept. 8.
Following the conference-clinching win, Sprague dropped two of its final five matches, including the regular season finale against No. 16 South Salem, who also happens to be in the same bracket as Sprague and McNary.
But before real thought can be given to the rematch, the Celtics open play against the No. 25 McDaniel Mountain Lions on Wednesday.
McDaniel (15-7, 12-4) finished third in the Portland Interscholastic League, winning five of their final seven matches. But they didn’t fare so well against opponents in the top-20. The Mountain Lions were 0-6 against top-ranked teams this season.
Among those top-ranked opponents were two league matches each with No. 15 Ida B. Wells and No. 20 Grant, as well as a tournament meeting with No. 18 Forest Grove.
The highest ranked opponent McDaniel faced this season was No. 6 South Medford, the only shared opponent between McDaniel and McNary.
The Celtics faced the Panthers twice in tournaments, a 2-1 win on Sept. 17, and a 2-1 loss the following week on Sept. 24. The first defeat the Celtics suffered this season.
Meanwhile, Sprague is paired with No. 24 Lake Oswego in the opening round. The Lakers (9-11, 5-7) lost to the Celtics in tournament play on Oct. 1.
It’s not an easy road for the Celtics in their quest for the first volleyball state title in school history. If they can get through the first two rounds at home, they likely have top-seeded No. 1 Jesuit waiting for them in the quarterfinals at Forest Grove High School on Nov. 4.
Jesuit (29-0, 12-0) has been atop the OSAA rankings most of the season. Barring a second round upset from either South Salem or No. 17 Sunset, or a first round shocker from No. 32 Gresham, Jesuit will be the final step to get through the A bracket.
McNary does have some experience playing top schools outside of conference this season. On top of their two meetings with South Medford, McNary faced No. 2 Westview in tournament play on Oct. 18.
While Westview (23-4, 10-2) took that match 2-0, it could prove to be a vital building block if McNary moves on in Forest Grove.