West Salem — Can Bend legitimately challenge Jesuit while wrestling with Central Catholic and West Linn for a 6A state title? The Lava Bears themselves have said they can, their local reporters in Bend say they can, and a thorough review of their gameplay, size, and other variables say that they can. So yes, the Bend Lava Bears are 6A contenders and they will shut up anyone who tries to suggest otherwise. So what makes them so firmly able to declare such a status?
It honestly revolves around their balanced gameplay, beautiful on the court chemistry, and number of weapons they can go to in times of need. There are a cast of characters that make up this party and it starts with their Senior libero Marin Montagne, who you will find to be a constant presence all over the floor doing everything from digging out kills to making blocks. She serves more or less as the leader on the floor for the Lava Bears and directs traffic. Next up would be Marley Hardgrave and Chloe LeLuge, two athletic players who serve on both ends of the game for Bend. LeLuge is a two way threat, throwing down powerful kills past opposition and putting up a brick wall to stop opponents in their tracks.
Hardgrave serves more as a defensive specialist, setting up a firm defensive wall in the middle and can easily square up with the best of an opposing offense. She can also make plays offensively when she needs to, but is best known for her defensive skill on the floor. Other notable names on this squad include Olivia Cutshaw, Abigail Francis, Alyssa Hicks, and Taylor Clark, all of whom serve critical roles in keeping this team smooth flowing from one possession to the next. Together, these athletes are what make the Lava Bears as deadly as they are to opponents from one match to another.
After their sweep of West Salem on Tuesday, the Lava Bears have only dropped one set all season and sit at 11-0 and 6-0 in Mountain Valley Conference action. Bend was a hesitant selection as a contender due to their inability to leave Central Oregon this Spring for games, which put their track record at a disadvantage compared to that of other 6A powers. However, they have proven any doubters wrong through results, teamwork, and time. Take the Lava Bears seriously, they might be the program that dethrones the Jesuit dynasty if all the cards fall right for them, or at the very least give them the biggest scare out of every 6A team this season.