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One in a Million

Senior outside hitter Asia Million has helped Butte Falls to 43 straight Skyline A Southern Division victories

BUTTE FALLS ' Where do you go if you start out at the top?

That's been the quandary for Butte Falls volleyball star Asia Million.

The senior outside hitter set such a high-water mark early on in her prep career ' which she's managed to maintain ' that opposing teams in the Skyline A League are readying the victory parade upon her graduation in the spring.

— Asia is one of those rare four-year starters, says Butte Falls coach Mike Harrington, who has seen his share of volleyball success during his nine years with the Loggers. She puts a lot of fear into a lot of teams.

Those teams in our league don't like to see Asia go up and hit the ball.

Million jumped into the starting lineup as a freshman and earned first-team all-Skyline A League honors in each of her first three seasons ' including player of the year accolades as a junior.

Not only did Million reach early individual success and maintain it, but the Loggers have reaped the benefits as well.

Million and fellow seniors Brianna Smeltz (setter), Cassy Bartel (middle), Kathi St. George (outside hitter) and Sarah Matthews (middle), who is just coming back from a serious knee injury suffered in basketball last year, have yet to lose a Sky A match.

In fact, heading into today's league match with Triad, Butte Falls has won 43-straight Sky A contests, dating back to October 1999, and has claimed three straight league titles in the process.

Ever since the sixth grade, we've had a pretty strong team, says Million, of her pre-Loggers volleyball career. We've always been good, and it just seems like we've always won our games.

The past three-plus seasons have been impressive, but its just the tip of the iceberg when viewing Harrington's tenure with the Loggers.

Butte Falls has 11 division titles in 13 seasons ' finishing second in the other two years ' and have compiled a 124-6 mark from 1999 to present.

It's been quite a run for these seniors, says Harrington, who has five seniors on the squad. They've accomplished a lot during their time here.

While the seniors have been at the core of the Loggers' success, the youngsters have also found their niche.

The versatile Mickie Burns, who's played almost every position for Harrington, Nikki Harms, a sophomore defensive specialist, and fellow sophomore Elysia Rodgers, a part-time starter and fill-in off the bench, have played admirably with the pressures of keeping the win-streak intact.

Playing and keeping up with these seniors is quite a job, marvels Harrington. They do everything a coach could ask of a sophomore.

Yet, despite their success in league action, it was the Loggers' Hoosier-like performance in last weekend's nine-team Hidden Valley Tournament that raised a few eyebrows around Southern Oregon.

Butte Falls, competing as the only Class 1A school, took on the likes of Class 3A giants Phoenix and Hidden Valley and 2A school's Glendale and Oakland.

The Loggers downed Phoenix ' the second-place team in the Skyline Conference ' and did the same to Glendale in the championship match.

Towering middles Bartel and Matthews teamed up for 10 blocks against the Pirates, while Million stuck the Pirates with seven kills, then added eight more in the title match.

They played so well, and you could tell they were excited, says Phoenix coach Tom Murphy. They were playing with high energy and good focus, and I think they played better than anybody there.

It wasn't a fluke. Nobody overlooked them. They just came in and won the tournament.

The unscathed runs through the Sky A will be remembered, but the Hidden Valley Tournament title may stand out for Million.

That was definitely a big highlight for me, says Million. Knowing we were the only (Class) 1A team playing these bigger schools really gave us a lift.

People always underestimate us because we're from a small school. I don't think they'll underestimate us any more.

Reach reporter Kevin Goff at 776-4480 or e-mail .