Sisters Clara Stanley, left, and Nora Stanley both made the all-OWC first team in volleyball. (File photos by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Oregon West’s all-conference volleyball team released Wednesday features the rare instance of two sisters making the first team — and yes, they’re from Philomath.

Senior Clara Stanley and freshman Nora Stanley earned first-team recognition and they pulled off those honors after not competing in the league last year. Nora was in middle school and Clara suffered a season-ending injury just a few matches into the nonconference schedule.

PHS senior Ahnika Tryon was a second-team selection. (File photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

The sisters have been the team’s top hitters this season and helped the Warriors to a runner-up finish in the conference and automatic berth in the Class 4A playoffs.

Philomath senior Ahnika Tryon was included on the second team. Juniors Madison Provance and Ashleigh Brown earned inclusion on the honorable mention list.

Conference champion Cascade had three players on the first team — senior Annabelle Peterson, sophomore Irene Rocha Ibarra and junior Kamryn Sande. Sweet Home senior Brooklyn Hanni and Newport sophomore Madison Smallwood were also included.

Overall, Cascade, Philomath and Stayton had five players honored, followed by Sweet Home’s three, Newport’s two and North Marion’s two.

Coach Autumn Hilberg talks to her players during a timeout at last week’s home match against Stayton. The Warriors will open the 4A playoffs at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Crook County. (File photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Playoff pairings

The volleyball team was seeded 10th and will open the Class 4A playoffs with a match at seventh-seeded Crook County. The two teams will square off at 5:30 p.m. Saturday on the campus of the Prineville school.

Philomath (14-8) and Crook County (18-9) did not meet each other this season but had five common opponents. In matches against Gladstone, The Dalles, Barlow, McKay and Sweet Home, the Cowboys went 6-1 with a 16-4 advantage in sets played while Philomath was 4-2 in those matches and 12-7 in sets.

Crook County plays well on its home court with a 5-0 record and in fact, the Cowboys have lost only one set in its gym. The winner will advance to the 4A tournament Nov. 3-4 at Springfield.

For those who want to make the trip to Crook County, admission is $10 for adults, $6 for students.

Elsewhere among the fall sports, the girls soccer team qualified for the 4A playoffs as the No. 5 seed and won’t see any action until the afternoon of Halloween. Conference champion North Marion is seeded No. 3. The league could get a third league member into the playoffs if Newport can beat Seaside in a play-in game scheduled for Thursday.

The PHS girls soccer team is seeded fifth for the 4A playoffs. (File photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Philomath (12-2) appears to have just as good of a chance as any team in the field this season. Top-seeded and defending champion Marist Catholic beat the Warriors by one goal early this season, 3-2. Philomath’s other loss came to North Marion, 2-1, in their first meeting (the Warriors beat the Huskies 6-2 in their second match).

Philomath will be the host team for the first-round game. It remains to be seen if the contest actually occurs on the Warriors’ home field or if the game is moved to Corvallis or Crescent Valley — which has not been an uncommon alternative over the years with the PHS pitch often becoming unplayable if a significant amount of rain falls.

With a win in the first round, Philomath could possibly be headed to fourth-seeded Hidden Valley, assuming the Mustangs would be able to defeat the No. 13 seed (although nothing’s a given in the postseason). If an upset occurred, Philomath could end up with a second home game.

The boys soccer team didn’t qualify for a play-in game, just barely missing out after going 4-9 with a brutal schedule. The Warriors almost knocked off league champ Stayton Tuesday in a 1-0 contest.

Third-seeded Stayton and fourth-seeded Newport will represent the Oregon West in the playoffs. North Marion could become a third team in the field if the Huskies can beat La Grande at home in a play-in match.

The PHS football team will host Sweet Home at 7 p.m. Friday at Clemens Field. (File photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Football team’s chances

The football team will play its final regular-season game Friday at home against a winless Sweet Home squad. The Warriors are still hoping to be able to slip into the bracket. In 4A football, the top three teams in each conference automatically qualify and in Special District 3, Marist Catholic, Junction City and either Cascade or Stayton are in those positions (the Cougars and Eagles play Friday).

Those 15 schools fill all but one spot in the bracket with the 16th qualifier at large. The team earning that final spot will be the highest-ranked fourth-place team out of either Special District 3 or Special District 4. So that could be Cascade, Stayton or Philomath out of SD3, or North Bend or Marshfield out of SD4.

The best scenario for the Warriors would be if North Bend and Marshfield both lose (which is very possible with games against the state’s No. 1 and No. 6 teams) and Cascade defeats Stayton. If Philomath wins and Stayton loses, the Warriors clinch fourth place. Qualifying would then come down to the OSAA rankings between Philomath (currently 18th), North Bend (11th) and Marshfield (12th).

The OSAA rankings, which are based on equally-weighted mathematical systems, can be unpredictable so we’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out.

The PHS girls cross-country team will be heavy favorites at Saturday’s Oregon West Conference Championships. (File photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Cross-country districts

The Philomath High boys and girls cross-country teams both have a good chance to qualify for the 4A Championships with either a first- or second-place finish in Saturday’s conference meet. Let’s face it, it would be one of the biggest shocks ever if the girls don’t win the meet based on the team’s exceptional results all season.

Adele Beckstead, Ana Candanoza, Lucy King, Melea Lattin and Hallie Morrison have been the team’s most consistent top-five runners and every one of them could finish in the top 10 this weekend.

The boys could pull off a feat that didn’t seem possible heading into the season. After losing the bulk of their experience from last year’s team to graduation, the Warriors pretty much started over heading into this fall’s schedule. But several runners have seen exceptional improvement and Philomath appears to have senior Simon King available — he ran in his first high school race last week at Harrisburg and is positioned to be the squad’s third-best runner behind Leo Pausch and Lukas Hernandez. Mason Stevens, Galen Murch and JJ Lewis have the potential to also score important points. This group could place its top five runners in the meet’s top 15 or even the top 12.

Newport is just too good to challenge for first place. Philomath will need to beat out Stayton and Cascade for second — and at least on paper, that seems likely to happen.

As I’ve reported in the past, Newport is the host school this year but does not have a course and had planned to stage the district meet at Stayton. But with Philomath’s rebuilding of the Mariman course early this fall, Newport requested for the meet to be moved to Philomath.

Interestingly, the Oregon West will be the last of the six district meets with two occurring Wednesday and three others on Thursday. That means heading into the meet, Philomath will already know all of the team and individual qualifiers with the exception of two at-large berths that will be awarded Sunday morning.

PHS coach Joe Fulton talks to a couple of his runners prior to the Paul Mariman Invitational varsity girls race. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Significant coaching honor

Finally, let’s close out this week’s Warrior Watch by mentioning that cross-country coach Joe Fulton has earned recognition from the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association by being selected as the state’s nominee for the National Federal of High Schools 2022-23 Coach of the Year award for boys cross-country.

Each year, the OACA selects one coach from each of the 10 boys and girls sports offered in Oregon. Each state award winner becomes eligible for Section 8 awards competing against coaches in their respective sports from Washington, Montana, Idaho, Alaska and Wyoming. The Section 8 winners then compete for National Coach of the Year against representatives from the other seven sections nationally.

Sportsmanship, ethical conduct and moral character all factor into the criteria used in the OACA selection process.

According to OACA Executive Director Rob Younger, “We want them to be not only successful in their respective sports but also as individuals in their schools and communities. Longevity in coaching is also an important consideration.”

Those words seem to fit Philomath High’s “Chief” — best of luck to him in earning the highest honor possible.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.