Big Bend volleyball team stands tall in the face of adversity

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  • Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald Laurissa Kisler of Warden (2) celebrates with teammates Haily Miller (1) and Savannah Bass (11) winning a point during the NWAC season.

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    Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald First-year Big Bend Community College head coach Michael DeHoog is helping reshape the volleyball culture.

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    Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald Sophomore Madison Powers is a two-year starter for Big Bend Community College.

  • Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald Laurissa Kisler of Warden (2) celebrates with teammates Haily Miller (1) and Savannah Bass (11) winning a point during the NWAC season.

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    Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald First-year Big Bend Community College head coach Michael DeHoog is helping reshape the volleyball culture.

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    Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald Sophomore Madison Powers is a two-year starter for Big Bend Community College.

Attitude is just about the only thing in this world a person can control.

Some days you’re up, the next you’re down. Life is what you make of it.

The Big Bend Community College volleyball team went into this weekend’s NWAC Crossover Tournament at DeVries Activity Center with a 41-game losing streak, dating back to their last win on Sept. 12, 2016.

They took Blue Mountain Community College from Pendleton, Ore., to five games earlier this season, but it has been a long stretch without much success. On Saturday, in their own gym, they made short work of Everett Community College from Seattle (25-18, 25-19) to snap that downward spiral at 41 games.

It’s not like winning the NCAA championship or the Super Bowl, but a win’s a win and it’s a testament to nine young women and a first-season coaching staff.

“There were just so many emotions running through my head when the final point went down,” said sophomore Madison Powers from Boulder, Mont., who went through the 1-30 season in 2016. “We finally got that feeling of accomplishment and what that win feels like.

“We looked at this tournament like this is our postseason tournament. We might be not be the best team in the NWAC, but we wanted people to know this is our home and we’re going to fight for it.”

There are just four sophomores that carried over from a year ago: Laurissa Kisler (Warden), Savannah Bass (The Dalles, Ore.), Natalie Yergensen (Twin Falls, Idaho) and Powers. Saturday’s win was a team contribution, to be sure, but it was especially sweet for the returning players.

“We practice hard day in and day out, and I really want people to know what Big Bend really is. It was really exciting to finally get the win,” said Kisler. “The last two seasons have been kind of rough, but I think this shows the true character of who we are and how hard we work as a team.”

There are just four sophomores on a team where just three players are taller than 5-foot-6. First-year head coach Michael DeHoog was hired late, in May, and started the season with 10 players. One has since left the team, but the rest drew a line in the sand and took a stand. It’s that fire that makes him smile, he says.

“I genuinely enjoy every single practice. It would be easy for the kids to just mail it in, but they don’t. They come and they work hard,” DeHoog said. “There’s not a better group of kids that I’d rather go through this season with, because character-wise they’re top-notch. They’re just enjoyable to be around. They’re not done learning; every day it’s 'let’s go, Coach.' ”

Sometimes the true definition of personal character is not when things are going right, but when they walk through adversity. How do you come out the other side with dignity and honor?

“Volleyball is just a vehicle to teach life,” DeHoog said. “We just won the President’s Cup for academics. I tell them volleyball is going to end, maybe after this year, maybe later. But life doesn’t end. You have to set yourself up for something else.

“I am a firm believer that success in the classroom leads to success in life. Whether we are 1-24 or 24-1, I’m going to teach the same lessons on a daily basis. If I can teach them to see outside of themselves. ‘Are you willing to serve others,’ then I’ve done my job, and they get it.”

For Kisler, who is working toward a career in nursing, lessons learned at Big Bend go far beyond the volleyball court.

“Coming from a small high school, this has given me a chance to play at a higher level,” she said. “It’s not all about winning. I’m glad I chose to stay with it, even after last year (1-30). Life experience doesn’t always go your way. Sometimes you have to go with the flow. I love my teammates. They’re so awesome. They’re the reason I try so hard every day. They’re the reason I have a smile and love going to practice. I love ’em.”

Powers has aspirations of playing at the four-year school level next season.

“Playing here has taught me a lot of things that’s made me grow up a lot,” she said. “I’m living far away from home and it’s given me a lot of character-building skills and what it takes to play on a college-level team.

“I’m talking to a coach right now and all I can say is that Coach DeHoog is definitely the coach I needed to get me there.”

It’s not the Super Bowl, but the Big Bend website reads, "Winning streak: 1." That is pretty special for a team reshaping the culture of Big Bend Community College volleyball.

Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at rharwood@columbiabasinherald.com.

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