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The Greyhounds bring home a trophy to cap off the best season in school history.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - The Gaston Greyhounds pose with the second-place trophy after Saturday's 2A Volleyball State Championship match at Ridgeview High School in Redmond. It was Gaston's first-ever appearance in a state title match.Despite falling to No. 1 Salem Academy in the 2A volleyball state championship match Saturday night, Gaston volleyball just finished its best season in school history.

The Greyhounds lost in three sets against the Crusaders, whose 25-13, 25-18, 25-18 victory capped off the tournament action at Ridgeview High School in Redmond. 

Following the Nov. 6 match, Gaston was presented with second-place medals for their performance in the state tournament. Senior middle blocker Mackenzie Berger was honored as the Greyhounds' most valuable player, and both Berger and setter Lexi Fern were named to the All-Tournament team. Berger led the team with 14 kills and two blocks, while Fern set team-high marks with 22 assists and 18 digs. 

Despite the defeat, Greyhounds head coach Melody McMasters had nothing but good things to say about her team and their effort this year and postseason.

"The girls played well together during the postseason," the coach said. "Each girl brings particular strengths to the game and we worked to make them shine. The majority of the team bought into the concept of team-first and that really brought our game to a higher level."

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - No. 2 Gaston fell in the state championship match to No. 1 Salem Academy, but senior Mackenzie Berger (22) leaves a lasting legacy after leading the Greyhounds to the best volleyball season in school history.Gaston reached the championship match after defeating No. 3 Monroe on Friday night in a long five-setter. Unfortunately, the Greyhounds' tired legs may have betrayed them in the final on Saturday. Meanwhile, a more rested Salem Academy only needed three sets to get through their semifinal match, which was played earlier on Friday night than the Gaston-Monroe match. 

After the first set began 7-7, Salem Academy pulled away by scoring 11 of the next 12 points on its way to a 25-13 win. Berger had six kills in the opening set, her highest total of the night, while Fern added seven assists. 

In the second set, Gaston was able to take a lead midway through the action at 16-15 following a kill from Rhys Niederberger. That forced Salem Academy to call a timeout, after which the Crusaders won the next four points until Madi Bentley got a kill for Gaston to stop the bleeding. The top seed never relented though, taking six of the next seven points and taking a 25-18 set from Gaston to go up two sets to none. 

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Gaston had two players named to the All-Tournament team following the 2A State Championship match against Salem Academy. Senior Mackenzie Berger, middle, and sophomore Lexi Fern both received the honor.After bouncing back in the second set, Salem Academy came out looking inspired against a deflated Greyhound squad. The Crusaders jumped out to leads of 8-2, 13-3 and 17-6 before Gaston made one final push to save its season. The Greyhounds took 10 of the next 15 points thanks to a run that included kills from Berger and fellow senior Grace Smith. The surge brought the deficit to 22-16, but Gaston could not quite get over the hump in the 25-18 third set. 

The Greyhounds' loss in the final should not take away from their spectacular 2021 season. Seniors Mackenzie Berger, Grace Smith and McKenzi Tucker will leave a lasting legacy by helping Gaston to its first volleyball trophy in school history.

"Going to the state tournament and placing second is hopefully the beginning of a tradition," McMasters said. "The team as a whole had been willing to put time in even during the offseason, which is why they play so well together."

Meanwhile, the rest of the squad will be back next season to see if they can put some more hardware in the hallways at Gaston High School.

"Nest season, we will definitely miss our seniors, especially Mackenzie Berger's blocking and hitting," McMasters said, "But we have most of the team coming back and we will have some strong freshmen coming into our program."

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