Crusader volleyball's season ends on 6A state stage
The group of star-crossed Crusader volleyball players loitered around the Liberty High School cafeteria, teary-eyed and disconsolate after their seeing their Class 6A state championship dreams come to an unfortunate end.
Jesuit isn't familiar with losing at the 6A state tournament. Normally the Crusaders dominate the quarterfinals after early morning matches, get right back on the bus and start re-focusing for the 6A semis Friday night. But with no game to prepare for, Jesuit tried to make post-game plans but couldn't come to a consensus and instead wandered the hallways Liberty High reflecting on an opportunity lost.
Down 2-1 heading into the fourth set against West Linn, Jesuit initiated a resounding fourth set response, leading the set from wire-to-wire in a 25-17 win to send the match to a deciding fifth set. With Southridge looking on from across the way, an all-Metro League state semifinal seemed at hand.
West Linn had other plans.
The Lions got out to a 13-10 fifth set lead and evaded the wrath of Rose Booth and the Crusaders' power hitters down the stretch to clinch a 6A semifinal bid, 21-25, 25-17, 27-25, 17-25, 15-13 on Friday.
Jesuit played South Salem on Saturday in the 6A consolation bracket and lost in five sets to end its season.
"It's hard, you can't be not disappointed, but we want to finish strong," Booth said. "In the fourth set, we made a decision and pushed back. We really came together, started picking each other up more and had a lot of communication that carried into the actual play. It was a good fight from both sides. We've played West Linn before and knew it was going to be a battle. They played great today."
In the third set, West Linn wasted two set points and survived one by Jesuit, then saw Callista Noel notch a kill from the right side and Hannah Hashbarger serve an ace to close out their 27-25 win.
Jesuit answered in the fourth set, however, breaking open a 10-10 contest with a 10-2 run, then closing its victory on kills from Booth, Lauren McCabe and Alyssa Hughes.
There was more excitement to come in the fifth set, too, with Jesuit leading 8-5 on a Booth kill before the Lions closed the game on a 10-5 run. Along the way, Long and Isaacson notched two kills each and Fillion ended it with a tip from the left side.
Booth put the Crusaders on her back in the fifth set, booming three uncontrollable kills at the Lion defense that had no chance of getting returned across the net. As the entire Liberty gym turned its focus to the far right court where West Linn and Jesuit were waging war, Booth put on a pyrotechnic show. She couldn't be stopped even as the Lions shifted its block toward the springy junior. Freshman Peyton Griffin's passes were crisp and easy to hit and junior Erin Foley's all-out defense help set up the Jesuit offense.
"I felt good, but I couldn't have done without the great digs and sets," Booth said. "It was really a team effort."
Jesuit and West Linn were at center stage, under the state spotlight with fans from six different schools looking on, oohing and awing at the wholehearted, resolute action on the floor in the fifth set. The way the Crusaders stayed composed and played at a high level, with their rambunctious student section backing them, was a testament to Jesuit's progress and maturation this fall.
"The energy was really cool ... every play counts so you have to give it everything you have ... it was really fun," Booth said. "At times when you're down, it can be hard to get back in this environment, but I think we handled it well. Our chemistry and confidence have grown a lot since the beginning of the season. If you had put us out there the first week, we would not have performed that way."
Though Jesuit has bowed out in the 6A quarters the last two seasons, 2018 should be a big bounce-back season, state-wise. Booth, Hughes, Griffin, Foley, McCabe, Lizzie Stegemoller and six more Crusaders are slated to return to the roster next season. And with Southridge graduating a handful of starters including Chloe Brown, Natalie Hoff and Cara McClean, Metro and the 6A crown could very well be Jesuit's again.
Miles Vance of the West Linn Tidings contributed to this story.