The HRV girls volleyball team has again won the Columbia River Conference, repeating the team’s performance in 2015 when the Eagles took the conference title — the first for HRV in 27 years.

This year, though, the Eagles did it a heck of a lot faster.

HRV (22-2, 6-0 CRC) defeated The Dalles (3-9, 2-4) in three sets to none on the road Tuesday (25-20, 25-20, 25-19) to claim the title in what was the Eagles’ first league match in October.

Last year, the question of who would get the CRC crown wasn’t answered until the final game of the regular season, where HRV hauled off an upset against The Dalles, invigorating an Eagles volleyball program that hadn’t seen much success since the 1990s.

Showing the progression of a still-young HRV squad, the Eagles were no longer the underdogs to start the 2016 season and minus a come-from-behind five-set win against Pendleton in their league opener, HRV cruised through the CRC this season, taking the title in just six games. Mathematically, the team could not have won the conference any faster.

HRV doesn’t have any plans on letting up in the final few games of the season as the team attempts to improve its 5A ranking, but the pressure is off as far as avoiding a play-in game. The Eagles suffered a setback Thursday at home, swept by the Ridgeview Ravens (6-9, 1-3 Intermountain Conference) — a team that played HRV extremely tough in the title game of last weekend’s tournament in Hood River. HRV lost 25-18, 25-19, 25-23 and the defeat bumped HRV from a seven-seed to a nine-seed. However, with the title, the Eagles are a lock for competing in the 16-team OSAA tournament and will play a to-be-determined opponent in a first-round game Saturday, Oct. 29 in Hood River.

“It feels good to know that we’ve secured a playoff berth so soon and (it) takes a lot of pressure off, generally,” said HRV Head Coach Scott Walker. “I am not surprised that these girls won the conference title again, but definitely surprised with how early. With all of our first conference players from last year returning, I knew we had a good shot at it.”

Outside hitters Katie Kennedy and Shae Duffy, who have developed into a murderer’s row of sorts for HRV this season, had a team-high 10 kills each Tuesday in the win over The Dalles and Duffy also led in digs (16) and aces (six). Walker noted, however, that the team struggled to pass the ball — one of the few criticisms Walker has had of his team this season — which was exacerbated by the Riverhawks’ clever serving, as HRV’s opponent “did a good job of putting the ball in places that made it difficult to run our offense.”

At several points, The Dalles came perilously close at times to making a comeback in all three of the sets, no more so than in the first set, where the Riverhawks went on a five-point run to tighten the score to 17-16. It wasn’t enough, though, and HRV “played sharp at the end and our serving carried us.”

The Eagles hit the road next week, playing Pendleton (5-10, 2-4) on Tuesday and Hermiston (6-10, 2-4) on Thursday. The final game of the regular season for HRV will be at home Oct. 18 against The Dalles.

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