Taylor Stricklin 2The names and faces may have changed, but the winning ways continued as the Sutherlin High School girls basketball program won its third consecutive state title in 2016. Douglas County Sports Online is proud to shine the Avista Athlete Spotlight on senior Taylor Stricklin. 
 
Taylor was born in Portland and grew up in Roseburg attending district schools through the 10th grade. She played junior varsity basketball as a freshman and earned a roster spot on the RHS varsity team the following year. During her sophomore campaign, Stricklin was one of the first players off-the-bench and played a key role in helping the Indians get to the OSAA 6A state tournament.
 
After the completion of the 2014-15 academic year, Taylor made the decision to transfer schools and play for the two-time defending state champion Sutherlin Bulldogs. 
 
"My mom was teaching and coaching basketball in Sutherlin, so the decision to leave Roseburg seemed to make a lot of sense," Stricklin says. "One of the other reasons was the fact I knew some of the girls in the program and that made the transition a lot easier."  
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Taylor made an immediate impact on the team earning a spot in the starting lineup and helping lead the Bulldogs to a Sky-Em League title. Along with senior Kayce Mock and sophomore Harlee Baker, the talented trio guided Sutherlin to a 27-1 record and its third straight 4A state championship, a 45-40 victory over Cascade. 
 
avista utilities"I think about that game all the time," Stricklin says. "There's nothing like the feeling of winning and I want to get back there again."
 
"Taylor provided instant offense, she solidified our defense and there is no way we win the state title without her last year," Sutherlin head coach Josh Grotting says.Taylor Stricklin 1
 
The 5'11 guard was named first team all-league and honorable mention all-state, but her coach feels Stricklin deserved more.
 
"I felt like she was one of the top 3 players in the state, but was often overlooked," Grotting says. "This year not only has she grown as a player, but also as a leader and I truly feel Taylor is the best player in the state at our level."
 
After high school, Stricklin will most likely play her first two years of college basketball for the Umpqua Riverhawks. She will also have the unique experience of playing for her father, longtime UCC head coach Dave Stricklin.
 
"When I was 5 years old I said if Duke or Tennessee didn't offer me a scholarship, I was going to UCC, Stricklin says." "It will be a cool experience to play for my dad."
 
Taylor is also an outstanding student and plans to pursue a degree in nursing.

Dani Baker AS1It's not often a player can choose from multiple sports to play in college after graduating, but one local athlete dominated three of them, playing on teams that finished in the state's top 10 throughout her high school career.

Ultimately choosing to play basketball at Northwest Christian University, Douglas County Sports Online shines the Avista Athlete Spotlight on North Douglas grad Dani Baker.

Baker chose NCU after attending an open gym session with her brother, Oakland alum Coleton Baker, who played at NCU in 2013-2014.

At the open gym, Dani met her future coach.

"I really liked him and the other coaches," she tells Douglas County Sports Online. "My brother had an awesome experience at the school his senior year and it attracted me to do the same."

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Dani has played softball, volleyball, and basketball as long as she could remember. She says basketball has always been her favorite because her family are huge basketball fans.

"I grew up in a gym," she said.

And she has the accolades to prove it.

Her freshman year she was a 2nd-team all-league selection. Her sophomore year netted another 2nd-team all-league honor and she was named Player of the Game at a state tournament game in Pendleton that season.

She was awarded 1st-team all-league her junior year and First Team All-District Tournament, Second Team All-State Tournament, Second Team All State, and again Player of the Game at the state tournament in Baker City.

She capped her basketball career with two Player of the Game awards at the state tourney her senior year. She was awarded 1st-team all district tournament, 1st-team all-league, 1st-Team All-State Tournament, and 1st-Team All State.

Dani Baker AS3She was named the District 3 Player of the Year and co-State Player of the Year for the 2015-2016 season.

She was also a four-time all-league selection in volleyball, and a First Team All State selection and Skyline League Player of the Year her senior year.

She's an all-league selection in softball as well, where she played shortstop for the Warriors in the spring. She was a scholar athlete each year in all three sports.

During Baker's career at North Douglas, her basketball teams made state tournament appearances her sophomore, junior and senior seasons, finishing runner-up her senior year.

Her senior year volleyball squad in 2015 finished 3rd at state, as did the Warrior softball team her sophomore year in 2014.

"Being an athlete has affected my life in a way that I am beyond proud of," Dani says. "If I didn't have sports I honestly don't know what I would do with my life. They are my outlet, and the gym/field is my home away from home."

Off the field, Baker had been involved in student council since her sophomore year, serving as president her senior year. She planned activities such as dances, blood drives, school fundraisers and spirit weeks.

She was also a member of Future Business Leaders of America for two years and National Honor Society for three, serving as vice president her senior year.

"Dani is one of the finest student-athletes I have had the pleasure to work with," says North Douglas principal Scott Yakovich. "Her contributions at North Douglas High School will be hard to replace. Her leadership on the court and field were matched by her leadership in school as Student Council President."

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Baker says the important part of these activities is the people she's met, especially in the day-to-day grind of athletics.

"The bonds I have created with my teammates and coaches are friendships I will never forget and will keep close to my heart," she says. "It tells you something when I don't even know what to do  with my day if we don't have practice. It shows you how dedicated we are to our sports."

Dani says her immediate family has supported her in her athletic endeavors, and helped push her to be the best she can be.

"My dad is a sports freak and knows a lot about every sport and can help me with anything," she says. "I enjoy having one of those parents that points out what you could improve on because ... how else are you supposed to get better? He always said things that shaped me into the player I am."

She says her mother has also been an inspiration.

"My mom has to be the most supportive mom around. She has struggled with health issues my entire life and could have given up, but she was always there for me and my brother no matter what. If she wasn't able to walk that day, she sure as hell came to my game in a wheelchair. There was nothing stopping her to be at every single game of mine--near or far, healthy or sick--and I know this will continue the next four years."

Dani Baker AS2Dani will follow in the footsteps of her brother Coleton, who also played for Umpqua Community College and the University of Oregon before finishing his college career at NCU.

"He wasn't able to make a lot of my games because he was playing sports himself, but he always found time to either play basketball or baseball outside with me on our off time. He would give me pointers to get better and I was always willing to listen because he's the one I look up to most and will go to for anything."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(updated 8/6/16)

150724 LIONS 0513Each year, fewer and fewer athletes are able to compete at the varsity level in three different sports, but that trend does not hold true for one special talent at Yoncalla High School. Douglas County Sports Online is proud to shine the Avista Athlete Spotlight on senior Will Shaw.

Yoncalla has seen its share of exceptional athletes over the years, but Will may be the last of a dying breed. As the term three-sport star slowly fades away in high schools across the country, Shaw is a rare type of athlete who has the talent and work ethic to shine in three arenas, whereas most others are now focusing on just one or two sports.

"Will is the ulimate competitor and I always believed as long as he was on the field, we had a shot at winning," head football coach Matt Bragg said. "He's a great kid and I've never seen him treat anybody badly, he's a true school leader."

It all began in the fall of 2012 when Shaw played his first season of varsity football for the Eagles and it didn't take long for fans to take notice.

"One of my fondest memories was a game during my freshman year against McKenzie," Will said. "I started at quarterback and passed for over 400 yards and had more than 600 all-purpose yards, but we still lost 81-80."

Shaw went on to finish his football career as the school's all-time leader in touchdowns, rushing yards and total offense. During his final season, he was named the league's top offensive player and set school records for touchdown passes and passing yards. The Eagles also made three consecutive trips to the OSAA state playoffs, including quarterfinal appearances in 2014 and 2015.151218 Will Shaw 1

"Will was our team leader and he had the ability to put the others on his back when we needed it," coach Bragg said. "I believe he's the best all-around quarterback at the 1A level and one of the state's top linebackers."

avista utilitiesThe Yoncalla basketball program has been equally successful over the past few years making back-to-back playoff appearances. Last season, Shaw and the Eagles made it all the way to the 1A state tournament in Baker City and took home the fourth-place trophy.  
 
With all of the accolades Will has earned in football and basketball, it may be shocking to learn that his true passion is played during the spring and summer.

"Baseball has always been my favorite sport," Shaw said. "There's something about it; I just love it." 

Will helped lead Yoncalla to the playoffs in 2015 and has set his sights on getting back to the postseason in his final year. He also plays American Legion baseball in the summer and hopes to make the final cut and play for Roseburg's Dr. Stewart's in 2016. 

151218 Will Shaw 2Shaw also plans to play baseball at the collegiate level, but has not decided on a school just yet. He will major in criminal justice and sociology with hopes of becoming a game warden. 

"The programs weren't the best when I got to high school, but we were determined to turn this around," Shaw said. "I've busted my butt and every year we've gotten better. I've been lucky to have an amazing career."

Megan BradleyTo win a state championship, it takes more than just star power. Every team has a difference-maker who does the little things it takes to win and there's no better example than the 2016 girls basketball team at Sutherlin High School. Douglas County Sports Online is proud to shine the Avista Athlete Spotlight on senior Megan Bradley.

The Sutherlin-native has always enjoyed competition and played a number of sports in high school. Megan was a two-year starter in both soccer and softball, but it was basketball where she earned the most recognition. The class of 2016 included Bradley, Kayce Mock, Samantha Tilley, Taylor Klein and Cassidy Bell. avista utilities

 

 


"We were talking about it recently and from the 7th grade on, we lost only a couple of games," Megan said.

Bradley was a starter on the junior varisty team, but could not crack the varsity line-up until her senior year. The Bulldogs won back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015 behind two-time state Player of the Year Miranda Mendenhall. Those teams also had plenty of other talent including Olivia Gulliford, Ricki Mock and Baylee Merrifield. It wasn't until the winter of 2015 when Megan finally got her chance to start.

"I wasn't expected to score a lot, so my main function was to screen and get our scorers open," Bradley said. "We all had our spots on the team and even though I wasn't in the spotlight, I had an important role." Megan Bradley Basketball 2

Megan Bradley soccerSutherlin returned only one starter in 2015-16 and lost guard Cassidy Bell to a season-ending injury. However, Megan and the other seniors stepped-in and with help from junior Taylor Stricklin and sophomore Harlee Baker the Bulldogs surprised the so-called experts and rolled to a 27-1 record and a third consecutive Class 4A title.

"I didn't get to play in the championship game because I broke my wrist in the semifinal, but winning state is defintely my best high school memory," Bradley said. "People doubted us from the beginning and didn't give us a chance and we beat the odds."

"Megan was a key piece to our title run this year and without her effort and sacrifice we definitely would not have won the state championship," head coach Josh Grotting said. "As her coach and as a school, we are honored to have Megan represent us and truly show what it means to be a first class citizen and student-athlete."

Megan's playing days are now over and her focus has shifted to the future. She plans on attending Umpqua Community College and working toward a degree in neonatal nursing.

Megan Bradley Basketball 1

Shawn Rigsby 1Even though this three-sport athlete didn't grow up in South County, there is still plenty of Myrtle Creek blood pumping through his veins. Douglas County Sports Online is proud to shine the Avista Athlete Spotlight on South Umpqua senior Shawn Rigsby.

Shawn was born in Roseburg, but spent the majority of his younger days in California and Nevada before moving back to Douglas County at the beginning of his 8th grade year. It turned out to be a fairly easy transition for the family because both of Rigsby's parents graduated from South Umpqua High School. In fact, Shawn's dad, Kelly, was quite the athlete in his day earning varisty letters in three sports. He was a first team all-state defensive end for the Lancers and went on to play football at Eastern Oregon State College in La Grande.

"It was always the plan to come back home," Rigsby said. "I was able to make a lot of friends at school and by my freshman year in football realized my class had some really good athletes."

As a sophomore wide receiver, Shawn gained valuable experience playing behind a pair of quality seniors in Marcus Loper and Kristian Evans. He would get his chance to start for the Lancers in the fall of 2014 and made the most of it earning first team all-league and honorable mention all-state honors while helping lead South Umpqua to the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state playoffs.

"One of my favorite memories was our first round win over Philomath and this year's team has set a goal to make it back to the playoffs and go further than last season," Rigsby said. "We have a a bunch of leaders on this team, plus we're a lot quicker." 

avista utilities"Shawn is a hard working and very smart young man with the ability to play at the next level," SU head coach Steve Stebbins said. "It's been my pleasure to coach him the past four years."  

Once the football season concludes, Shawn will move into basketball and is expected to battle for the starting job at point guard. Then, it's off to spring baseball where the senior shortstop will be one of the top returning players in the entire Far West League. Shawn Rigsby 2

"I love playing baseball and I've loved it my whole life," Rigsby said. "It's always been my favorite sport to play and when I was younger I was part of a little league team that won the Nevada state title."

Local American Legion fans are also looking forward to Shawn's return to the starting lineup next summer. He was one of Dr. Stewart's top hitters leading the team in batting average during the 2015 season.  

"Shawn hit in the high .300's out of the lead off spot all while learning a new position by playing the outfield and he did a great job," Doc's head coach Scott Shaver said. "He was a key component in a 34-win season and his greatest asset is that he always wants to be better."

Rigsy is a true student-athlete maintaining a 3.4 grade point average with his sights set on playing baseball at the college level. Right now, Shawn is leaning toward Linn-Benton Community College where he plans to major in business management.

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