As the old saying goes, "winning isn't everything."
It's not just a consolation phrase either. In fact, it's one of the most essential sports commentaries ever uttered.
A true sports purist will unequivocally argue that the three C's of sport -- character, competition and camaraderie -- far outweigh any win-loss record or championship trophy.
If the strength of an athletic team were measured in heart and positive attitude, the Hood River Valley volleyball team could have won a state championship.
But the reality is, standings and state-tournament berths are based on win-loss records. And when you’re stuck in a conference that boasts the state's three top-ranked teams -- Gresham, Barlow and Central Catholic -- it can be difficult for a team to maintain confidence night in and night out.
"It's hard knowing that you're playing against the best teams every night," coach Tracy Norton said before the season. "Our goal (for the season) is to play well together and not leave anything on the court."
The brutal Mt. Hood Conference also featured No. 10 state-ranked David Douglas, and the Eagles knew coming into the season that it would be an uphill battle to reach the playoffs.
The players had to accept that they would never have a night off, each match serving as a measuring stick for their progress as a team.
At times, the Eagles shined, like when they third place at a nonconference invitational at Grant High School on Sept. 8. Other times, they struggled, losing six straight matches at one point in the season.
But this senior-dominated team never showed any signs of giving up. After beating Parkrose on Sept. 27, the Eagles played with a renewed enthusiasm and team unity in matches against some tough league opponents such as Reynolds, Sandy and Centennial.
Senior sensation Lindsey Sanguras had an excellent season at the net, on defense and at the service line, earning an all-conference honorable mention from the MHC. She led countless rallies for the Eagles with her strong but accurate service game, and preserved more than one rally with all-out hustle on defense.
Fellow all-conference selection Stephanie Halici also ratcheted her game up a notch this season, leading the team in serve receive and kills, while providing consistent defense and power at the net.
Lesley Betts proved to be a huge force at the net as the season wore on, often jumping out of the gym to deliver one of her powerful kills. Her net defense also improved in every game, and by the final few matches, she was turning away some of the league's strongest hitters.
Other players who played their final seasons at HRV were Tara Level, Mary Beth Mathews, Elizabeth Acevedo and Leanne Brophy, who was also playing in her first after moving to Hood River from California over the summer.
Each player provided different strengths, and by the end of the season had developed a cohesion with one another that allowed the Eagles to stay competitive against even the league's top teams.
One of the most pleasant surprises for the Eagles this season was freshman setter Meghan Flink, who became an integral part of both the offense and defense with her court knowledge and now-famous diving one-hand digs. Flink was also one of the team's strongest servers and will help lead the Eagles into the future.
Juniors Kara Herman and Kathryn Guisto are the only other full-time varsity returnees for 2002.