Valley Catholic leans on Katharine Jesse late for win

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Junior middle blocker Rebecca Fischer goes up for a tip shot in the first set of the Valiants four-set 3A quarterfinal win over Nyssa.

Faith. Fearless. Fun.

Those three words all played a role in the Valley Catholic volleyball team's 3A state quarterfinal 25-22, 25-22, 16-25, 25-18 win over Nyssa at Lane Community College on Thursday.

When the Valiants were down in the fourth set, they went to the center of the court and smiled at each other reassuringly in a fun way.

The Valiants never lost self belief, knowing if they played their way, the Bulldogs were no rival. And, they trusted each other and played for each other.

The “three F's” pulled the close-knit Valiants through to the 3A semifinals, where they beat Creswell to move on to the 3A state championship.

“We feel the chemistry is what we bring,” said junior setter Tin Tin Luu. “When we're down, that chemistry that we get from each other just fuels that faith, fun and fearless attitude. When we're smiling and laughing, that's when we're at our best. If someone's down, we look at them and smile. That just brings each other up.”

“We had a lot of energy coming into it,” said senior captain Ashley Ferris. “That brought a lot of momentum into the game for us. We came prepared. Our energy was definitely there, and we brought our energy back toward the end.”

Ferris said the Valiants — after losing the third set — were able to galvanize in the fourth set because their communication stepped up and enhanced their skill level.

“When we're talking, our play becomes a lot better,” said Ferris. “We're always there for each other and behind each other. We're always proud and excited for each other.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic setter Emily Groh digs out a backline Nyssa spike.

“This is just a taste of what we are,” added Luu. “We picked each other up, and we didn't break down. When we were down, we didn't melt. We didn't get mad at each other. We really picked each other up, and that's how we got that last game.”

Nyssa had a lot going for it. Solid hitters. Strong passers. Acceptable defense, and the sense to hang in all four sets against the second-ranked Valiants.

What the Bulldogs didn't have was a difference maker like Valiant outside hitter Katharine Jesse, who afflicted Nyssa with her proficient play high above the LCC net.

If Jesse wanted to go to the left side of the court, she did. Right side? No problem. Middle of the court? The outside hitter was uncompromising from there, too. Jesse notched seven kills, and an ace in the fourth in the deciding game to run her game total to the double digits. When her team needed a big point, especially in the tight first and second sets, Jesse was there to deliver. In the first set, with the Valiants down 19-18, Jesse ripped two kills to recoup the lead. Senior Madeline Henningsen backed up Jesse's scores with two kills up the middle of the floor, and Caroline Casale padded the lead with an ace. Jesse's fifth kill of the first set handed the Valiants the early win.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior middle blocker Madeline Henningsen rises for a kill attempt against Nyssa.

“We wanted to come out, be fierce, and just have a great time,” said Jesse. “For a lot of us, this is our last time down here (at the state tournament), so we just wanted to give it all we got and make it a great weekend.”

“We walked in really confident, and we just wanted to do what we knew we could do,” said Luu.

Jesse said Luu, Olivia Jackson and Emily Groh made her job easy with great, accurate passes at the net that were easy to pound. The drifting sets suspended in the air for the 6-foot senior, who swung away with a controlled ferocity that Nyssa was no match for.

“When we got those good passes, they were in the right spot, and I could swing pretty easily,” said Jesse. “I feel like all the options were really open. I owe it all to my setters. You don't want a defense to go to the same spot you're hitting every time. You need to be able to mix it up.”

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