Damascus Christian volleyball takes third at state tournament
Following an emotional and hotly contested semifinal loss to St. Paul in the OSAA 1A Volleyball State Championships, Damascus Christian beat No. 8 Crane on Saturday to take third place in the state tournament. The Eagles fell in five sets on Friday night, Nov. 5, with the Buckaroos prevailing 25-23, 19-25, 20-25, 25-20, 15-11 at Ridgeview High School in Redmond. The following morning, Nov. 6, they won 25-18, 20-25, 25-21, 25-19 in the third-place match.
"I felt like they gave it their all," said Damascus Christian head coach Emily Russau after the loss to St. Paul. "They played with heart, they played at a high level. They made big plays down the stretch. They played in control a lot. We had good serves, good serve-receives, some big hits. I thought we played well."
St. Paul jumped out to an early lead against Damascus Christian, taking the first set in what would be the closest of the five sets played all night. During that set, Stella Koch of St. Paul and Julia Mitchell of Damascus Christian traded off emphatic kills to lead their teams, including five from Koch and four from Mitchell.
For the remainder of the match, Sierra Hale would be the Eagles' most effective player. Hale, a junior, finished with a game-high 21 kills against St. Paul. Hale was also integral to Damascus Christian's service game, its defense and its passing. More than once, the hitter/setter managed to keep the ball alive with incredibly quick hand-eye coordination. Despite her team taking the loss, Hale was arguably the most impressive individual player on the court on Friday.
Hale helped guide Damascus Christian to second- and third-set victories, putting the Eagles just one set away from going to the title game. The third set was particularly impressive for her, as she scored the final two points of the set on back-to-back serves, first with a kill and then with a set-clinching ace.
As soon as the fourth set rolled around, St. Paul began playing with more urgency. The Buckaroos took leads of 10-7 and 15-9 that forced Damascus Christian to call timeouts. The Eagles were able to narrow the deficit to just two points at 19-17, but St. Paul scored six of the next nine points to force a tie-breaking fifth set.
In the deciding set, Damascus Christian jumped out to an early advantage. Kills from Hale and Mitchell had the Eagles up 4-1 to begin the set, and when they took an 8-6 lead, it forced St. Paul into a timeout. The Buckaroos grabbed their first set lead at 10-9, forcing the Eagles to call their own timeout. St. Paul's Anabelle Davidson closed things out by scoring three late kills in the fifth set — including the match-winning spike that was tipped by Mitchell and landed just out of Hale's reach.
After the match, Russau was focused on moving forward.
"I just told them, 'It's hard to make it here,'" said Russau of her Eagle team. "They went in and played their hearts out in that game. Now, you take your little bit of time and wipe your tears. Then you turn around and play for third place, because it's awesome that we could be third place. We're gonna go in and do the same thing. We're not going to let this get us down. We want to take third place."
On Saturday, the Eagles did just that.
Following the completion of the 1A state title match, both Sierra Hale and Julia Mitchell were named to the All-Tournament team for their efforts over the weekend in Redmond. With both of those players returning next season, expect Damascus Christian to be back among the top teams in the 1A classification in 2022.
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