It is that time of the year again: The summer grind is starting and fall sports are only about 2 1/2 months away. There will be previews of every conference in each classification in volleyball, soccer, and cross country this summer, with some being more detailed than others depending on the amount of information available. Let’s continue the countdown to fall sports with previewing the newly formed Central Valley Conference in volleyball, soccer, and cross country. For other 2022 conference previews, they can be found here.
2021 Champion: Bend (Now in 5A Intermountain Conference)
2021 Athlete of the Year: Laila Leaks, South Salem
Top Returners: Kayleigh Carpenter (South Salem), Brooksie Isham (South Salem), Sarah Jones (Sprague), Megan Smith (Sprague), Emily Blagg (McNary), Sidney Friesen (Sprague), Jackie Bier (North Salem), Mahala McCrae (North Salem),
North Salem: 9-16 (3-13) in 2021, Projected Varsity Returners: 8
Welcome back to 6A Vikings, it seems like an eternity since y’all left for 5A back in 2018. As a member of the newly organized Central Valley Conference, the Vikings enter the fall with a solid foundation of players to take a shot at the playoffs in 2022. Junior duo Jackie Bier and Mahala McCrae are solid rocks for North Salem, with both earning all-league honors in the 5A Mid-Willamette last season. It isn’t unreasonable to say that it is playoffs or bust in 2022 for North Salem.
Sprague: 11-15 (5-9) in 2021, Projected Varsity Returners: 13
They surprised many in 6A last season by reaching the Elite Eight, pulling a pair of upsets over Sherwood and Newberg, with 2022 looking like even a stronger season for the Olys. A trio of athletes: Sidney Friesen, Megan Smith, and Sarah Jones all return as all-league selections from 2021, with Sprague returning all of their depth with the exception of two senior graduates. The Olys have potential to go really far in 2022, they are the best positioned team in the entire conference this season.
McNary: 16-12 (6-8) in 2021, Projected Varsity Returners: 9
The Celtics had some playoff success themselves in 2021, upsetting Grant on the road and playing South Salem to four sets in a second-round loss. McNary returns a stable roster in 2022, anchored by six seniors that include all-league selection Emily Blagg. Some roster reshuffling will be in order to fill in some depth losses, but they have enough pieces to get back to the playoffs this season.
West Salem: 18-7 (8-6) in 2021, Projected Varsity Returners: 3
One of the most challenging seasons for any one program is coming up for West Salem in 2022, as the Titans shed every member of their 2021 squad except for three. On the bright side, their three returning varsity players aren’t seniors and can be foundational pieces. On the downside, it is quite literally a complete overhaul and will be a challenge to get back into the playoffs this season.
South Salem: 19-7 (11-3) in 2021, Projected Varsity Returners: 9
The Lady Saxons ended up in the state quarterfinals last season, falling two points short of a berth to the state semifinals. Losing star Laila Leaks is a blow for South Salem, but they return plenty of depth to make 2022 into a reloading campaign. South Salem returns a pair of stars on the outside in Kayleigh Carpenter and Brooksie Isham, along with complete depth across most positions on the floor. It’ll be a battle between them and Sprague for the conference title, which will be a fun race to watch in 2022.
2021 Champion: Bend (Now in 5A Intermountain Conference)
2021 Athlete of the Year: Nicky Williams, Sprague
2021 Goalkeeper of the Year: Natalie Cunningham, West Salem
Top Returners: Mya Fry (South Salem), Amity Rogers (Sprague), Tessa Fisher (McNary), Izzy Flores (South Salem), Maeve Morris (South Salem), Sydnee Alfano (McNary), Maggie Lapray (South Salem), Mia Zelinka (West Salem), Cora Chapman (North Salem), Amillya Kossokie (North Salem)
North Salem: 1-13 (1-6) in 2021, Projected Varsity Returners: 16
Last season didn’t go well for the Vikings, who return to 6A after a four-year stint down in 5A. On the bright side of things, North Salem returns 16 varsity players to the roster from last season, which helps keep the stability and chemistry of their established roster. Things can only really go up for the Vikings this season, who are trying to find their footing as a grassroots program.
McNary: 7-8 (1-6) in 2021, Projected Varsity Returners: 15
A year of progress came in 2021 for McNary, who reentered the playoffs for the first time since 2017. While it ended in a first-round exit to state champion Grant, McNary has every reason to be optimistic that they can make it back-to-back playoff appearances in 2022, which will be led by experience and anchors Sydnee Alfano and Tessa Fisher. The Celtics also have solace in returning goalkeeper Hannah Ferguson and all defensive pieces with the exception of Isabelle Gatchet. Things look optimistic for McNary in 2022 and rightfully so.
South Salem: 6-7-2 (3-2-2) in 2021, Projected Varsity Returners: 19
Speaking of experienced rosters, how bout them Saxons? Not only are they experienced, but they are loaded up with four all-league selections that include goalkeeper Maggie Lapray. In short, South Salem is likely the favorite to capture the conference title, barring some unknown development over the next few months.
Sprague: 9-4-2 (4-2-1) in 2021, Projected Varsity Returners: 13
In 2021, the Olys escaped from the cellar and made a run to hosting a playoff game, falling to an experienced Lakeridge team in the first round. Amity Rogers will become the replacement for star Nicky Williams, Piper Millikan likely takes over the goalkeeper role, and plenty of shuffling is in store on the defensive side. It remains to be seen how much of a hit Sprague will take in 2022 from their losses, but they should be in the playoff conversation.
West Salem: 7-6-2 (5-1-1) in 2021, Projected Varsity Returners: 12
A large retooling summer is in order at West Salem in 2022, as the Titans look to adjust from their major losses of an experienced 2021 team. In short, both sides of the ball and every position will be shaped significantly different this season, but the Titans do return Mia Zelinka defensively as an all-league selection from last year. Lots of work to be done over the bridge this summer and many questions will be answered.
2021 Champion: Summit (Now in 5A Intermountain Conference)
2021 Athlete of the Year: Ella Thorsett, Summit
Top Returners: Sara Abbott (Sprague), Olivia Buswell (South Salem), Gitte Lonigan (West Salem), Sophia Buswell (South Salem), Cora Chapman (North Salem), Olivia Moye (West Salem), Chloe Kolb (South Salem), Julianne Rommel (West Salem), Aspynn Westby (McNary)
Overall Analysis: Unlike the other two sports, it is very hard to translate expected performance between the departed, entering, and remaining teams of the new Central Valley Conference. West Salem and South Salem will be the top teams in 2022 based on 2021 data, as they will boast the best lineups in the league. Sprague’s Sara Abbott becomes the individual favorite with Summit departing to 5A, McNary and North Salem will fight to see who ends up in the cellar, and Sprague is the third wheel of a realistically two team conference race.