IONE — Through 29 matches, the Ione Cardinals are still perfect.
Ione picked up a berth in the Class 1A state tournament with a three-set victory 25-15, 25-7 and 25-13 over Imbler Saturday behind the heavy left hand of Dominika Senkerikova. The foreign exchange senior from the Czech Republic slammed 10 kills but did her most damage from the service line in a match that lasted less than an hour.
Ione (29-0, 6-0 BSC) charged out to a 7-0 lead in the first set behind Senkerikova’s serves, which included five aces in that period and four in a row at one point. After the Cardinals took the first set, the pattern repeated itself in the second as Senkerikova served another three consecutive aces. She finished the day with 11 total aces — including one that was struck with such force that it sent Imbler’s off-balance libero tumbling backwards to the floor and sent the home crowd into a frenzy.
With each dropping ace, Senkerikova said she could see the Imbler defense deflate a little more. Even when the Panthers succeeded at digging the volleyball, it often deflected in sharp vectors that would hamstring the team’s returning attack.
The addition of Senkerikova to an already stacked lineup that comprises six seniors has helped boost the Ione team from strong contender to overwhelming favorite, Cardinal coach Dawn Eynetich said. The combination of Senkerikova and fellow senior JoAnna Patton — the proprietor of a 17-kill day as well — makes a near unbeatable hitting team.
“(Senkerikova) is a great asset to have on your team,” Eynetich said. “You couldn’t ask for a better person or personality ... and she can hit the ball like nobody’s business.”
Ione controlled Imbler (18-11, 8-2 OOL) from the beginning. The Panthers never held a lead and managed a team total of 10 kills. The match looked like deja vu for Imbler, which fell at Ione in another 3-0 stomping at the start of the season.
It’s just the latest in a dominating season for Ione, which will enter next Saturday’s state tournament at Pacific University in Forest Grove as the No. 1 seed. Only once this year did a team push the Cardinals to a fifth set. Heading into the state tournament having played no close games can sometimes worry Eynetich, but performances like Saturday’s are a comforting reassurance.
“I have to say that this is probably the best game we’ve played this season and it is a great time to have that,” she said. “Hopefully this just flows into what we’re going to do next week.”
Patton agreed. The team knows what it’s capable of, she said.
“We’ve played a lot of top teams in the state,” Patton said. “I know some people do doubt us but it just feels good.”