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COURTESY PHOTO: BARBARA KERR - The Valley Catholic volleyball team took third at the Class 4A state tournament last weekend.


Off to a slow start and in jeopardy of losing the first set in its Class 4A state quarterfinal match last Friday afternoon, the Valley Catholic volleyball team needed some extra motivation and got it from assistant coach Kalani Efstathiou.

Trailing by five late in the opening set, the top-ranked Valiants exploded to score five consecutive and 10 of 11 points on their way to putting a lid on a raucous Tillamook crowd and defeating the No. 9 Cheesemakers, 25-21, 25-18, 25-18.

“Kalani was the one who said we’re scoring five right now to tie it up,” said Valley Catholic head coach Becky Kemper.

Efstathiou proved prophetic and the victory put the Valiants into the semifinal round, a spot that had eluded them the past two seasons when they were knocked off in the quarterfinals.

The Cheesemakers were leading 20-15 and had momentum on their side in set one, but that’s when the Valiants took control.

A trio of kills from junior outside hitter Lizzy Osborn sparked the rally and, after Valley Catholic tied things up, Tillamook melted under the pressure with several unforced errors.

Osborn, who was heard from early and often, dominated the offensive left side and finished with a game-high 21 kills.

“By pulling out that win in the first game we were able to show ourselves and everyone else that we have the confidence to come back from no matter how many points down,” Osborn said. “I can’t be who I am without my setters and passers. I was just able to find open spots and it was a good feeling to know we had that fight in us.”

COURTESY PHOTO: BARBARA KERR - The Valley Catholic volleyball beat Cowapa League foes Tillamook and Banks to finish third at the Class 4A state tournament.

Senior setter Sarah Gram - along with freshman Allie Merz - did a solid job setting up both Osborn and senior outside hitter Regan Dean, who chipped in with six kills to go along with 13 digs and two aces.

Gram and senior defensive specialist Daria Wonderlick added four digs apiece.

Osborn also had a team-high three aces and showed some defensive prowess with 10 digs.

“We need to go in with the mindset that we are good enough to beat them even though they have a good team,” said Valley Catholic senior libero Abby Groh, who had 13 digs and a pair of aces while anchoring the Valiants defense.

“Becky told me to control the back court today and my job technically is to tell everyone in the back row where they’re going. Today, I felt like my role was to not let anything go down behind the 10-foot line.”

Groh added that she had confidence the Valiants could muster the energy to rally from behind in the first set.

“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen (when we were down), but we really came together,” she added. “I never felt like we were going to lose a game. I knew we had enough fight and fire to come back and win.”

“(Kalani) said that right now our only option is to come back with five points because we know this is a team we can do that against.”

Kemper said it’s been great having an experienced player like Groh anchoring her squad.

“Everybody knows where Abby is going to be. She’s very calm and solid on serving,” Kemper added. “When a ball comes to her, you feel good because she puts the ball on the spot for our setters.”

Sophomore middle blocker Kayla Robbins also sparked Valley Catholic’s balanced attack with five kills and a pair of aces in a solid performance.

“At the beginning I felt I had a rough start, but then I just told myself I needed to pull it together,” Robbins said. “We just pulled together as a team and were able to finish the first game off strong.”

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