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Santos, Apollo seniors are ready to get redemption after tough '18 tourney showing

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset senior Birdie Zevenbergen and the Apollos are going back to the Class 6A state tournament.

Step one for the Sunset volleyball team, make the Class 6A state tournament.

Step two, ensure that last season's elite eight performance was nothing more than an unfortunate anomaly.

The Apollos handled the first phase of their redemption process with fire, dominating North Medford in the third and fourth sets to win their second round 6A match 25-21, 16-25, 25-11, 25-18 on Nov. 2 at Sunset High School. Now, Sunset can fully flush the sour taste of the 2018 state tourney when it takes on Central Catholic in the 6A quarterfinals at Liberty High School at 10 a.m. on Friday.

"This is what we've been hoping for, this is what we've been fighting for," Sunset senior Krista Santos said. "North Medford put up a really good fight. It wasn't an easy game for us at all. We had to really push. We realized how urgent this is. There is no 'next time'. We have 10 seniors on our team. This could be the last time we ever play together. We had to decide to put all our effort in as a team, to trust each other and win this game."

For Santos and so many more of the Apollos who had state title hopes last year, and instead were dashed from state in two-and-out fashion, the elite eight couldn't get here fast enough. It's time to wipe those memories away. It is time put Sunset back in the state's top tier, where it belongs. The Apollos first crack at redemption comes against a Ram team Sunset hasn't played against yet this year.

"We have some unfinished business to clear up," Santos said. "We have enough drive, we're pumped and excited for this game. Now, we know what to expect. We're just really ready to bring it all out. It's time to come out and show what we got. We're a good team when we want to be, so it's about us getting in the right mindset and limiting our errors, that way we have the most competitive game we can."

There is a distinct sense of urgency with this team. They're highly motivated to make sure this season ends in the way they desire, playing great, winning, intensified volleyball. Santos embodied that desire in the third and fourth sets against North Medford, taking the game over hitting the ball, blocking it, serving accurately from the backline.

"In the second game I wasn't playing as I should be," Santos said. "I timid hitting balls out, no wanting to hit the block. I wasn't really focused. In the third game, I needed to make a change for my team. If I wanted us to do well, then I needed to help, better the ball and not make it harder for everyone."

Senior Birdie Zevenbergen stepped big, blocking countless balls at the net. Senior libero Ashley Van Gordon covered the court defensively with timely stabs and fearless digs. Sydney Hankel and Renee Geib got in on the offensive action and chipped in at the net. It was a team-wide consciousness to elevate their play as a unit and shove it into high gear to roar away from the Black Tornado.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset senior Krista Santos and the Apollos are going back to the Class 6A state tournament.

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