Volleyball leader Niemi named Outstanding Player

Paige Niemi, the lone senior on a very young Sweet Home volleyball squad, was named the team’s Outstanding Player Thursday at the Huskies’ Awards Dessert.

Niemi, who also was a unanimous choice for all-league first team by Val-Co coaches, led the Huskies to a 3-5 league record that saw them beat a tough Philomath team in the last week of play to cap a “really great season,” Coach Debbie Danielson said,

With a team that included four freshmen on the roster, the most she’s ever had in 15 years of coaching, “we improved every game,” she said. “I saw improvement from the beginning to the end.”

Danielson noted that the Huskies played 17 games that were decided by two points or less.

“In the majority we lost by two, but we got better learning to fight through that,” she said.

“I thought the freshmen came through. They did a good job.”

Freshman Tiffany Miller was given the Hustle Award, while fellow rookie Emili Riggs was named Most Improved.

Junior Sam Johnson was named Defensive Player of the Year for her work in the back row.

Niemi, who served as team captain, was the lone third-year letter winner.

Juniors Hillary McCartin, Cassidy Sullivan, Alisha Huschka, Tana Tyler and Johnson were second-year letter winners.

First-year letters went to the four freshmen, Annie Whitfield, Devyn Makin, Riggs and Miller, and to sophomores Baili Riggs and Tasha Saunders.

Johnson was named to the all-league second team and McCartin was named to honorable mention honors.

Danielson said that if the Huskies can pick up where they left off, they could realistically make the state playoffs next year in a tough league that includes this year’s state champion, Central.

Neither Newport nor Central are losing many players, she said, but Sweet Home is losing only Niemi.

“If we’re lucky enough to start where we ended, we should do really well,” she said.