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Seniors lead way in 3-2 nailbiter over No. 24 Imbler in first round of 1A state tournament

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Open Door Christian Academy volleyball won the schools first-ever state playoff game across all sports Wednesday, Oct. 26. The Open Door Christian Academy volleyball faithful would be forgiven for having unwelcome flashbacks in the midst of a nail-biting opening round of 1A state playoffs.

Last season the Huskies fell short in similar circumstances — a 3-2 heartbreaker on the road against South Wasco County. But this year a talented group of seniors weren't going to let history repeat itself.

In the final tie-breaking set, senior middle blocker Natalie Van Vleet had a one-handed block at the apex of her jump; setter Damaris Visan had a pair of kills; and libero Jane Sima continued her streak of serving perfection with an ace and pair of late kills. All of that, coupled with a 7-0 start in set five thanks to junior middle blocker Miriam Visan, made the difference.

"I think my heart rate is going at about 150 bpm right now," said Coach Gabe Franklin with a laugh. "I've been coaching these girls since the 5th grade, so I am incredibly proud to see where they've come."

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Huskies freshman Claire Engelhardt went high for the kill against Imbler in the first round of state.  No. 9 Open Door won a game that will go down in the record books Wednesday evening, Oct. 26. By besting visiting No. 24 Imbler 3-2 (25-15, 12-25, 17-25, 25-22, 15-12), the Huskies claimed the school's first-ever state win across all sports. For a Troutdale-based school that first opened in 1978, that is a big deal.

"It was so energetic out on the court, my adrenaline is still pumping," said senior setter Ava Edmonds-Smith. "Before the game I had some flashbacks to last year, but during it we were all focused on the win."

"It feels good to win," added Sima.

Open Door (23-8) faced Imbler (17-13) earlier in the season during the East/West Classic hosted by Powder Valley High School, in which Imbler won a close 2-0 (25-22, 25-20).

But in the first set to kick-off the state tournament, it seemed like the Huskies were going to cruise to an easy win. Open Door staved off a Panther 7-0 rally midway through, that had the visitors take a 9-6 lead, thanks to a series of vicious serves from Damaris Visan — three aces in a row to retake the lead and a smoking set-winner.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Huskies junior Miriam Visan makes a play at the net.  Then things went off the rails.

"Things were getting a little goofy, but I trusted my seniors to bring it together," Coach Franklin said.

Thanks to stout defense and long rallies, the Panthers took control in the second and third sets. That was coupled with an Open Door offense that was making too many unforced errors. Lack of communication led to easy kills for Imbler, and their usual surefire hits sailed too deep out of play. In the third they recorded seven service errors, dropping them 1-2 in sets.

"We knew no matter how far down we were, we had to keep pushing," Van Vleet said.

In the fourth set they won a back-and-forth affair thanks to some defensive grittiness and a willingness to hit the deck. Sima had an acrobatic diving dig to keep the ball alive, in addition to a quartet of aces in the set, while Van Vleet also had a near-save on a dive that sent her crashing into the back wall.

"It took heart for them to mount that comeback," Franklin said.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Open Door volleyball celebrated a 3-2 win over Imbler Wednesday, Oct. 26, in the first round of the 1A state championships.  In the end Open Door Christian Academy completed its historic win.

"This is the first time we did it as a school — I can't believe it," Visan said with a beaming grin. "We have been playing together so long, worked so hard to get here. We all trust each other on the court."

"We left it all out there," added senior outside hitter Amelita Muntyan.

And while the seniors were all buzzing about the comeback victory, none are resting on their laurels. This team wants to keep going.

"We can make it all the way through the tournament," Visan said.

"Open Door all the way," Muntyan added.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Senior Damaris Visan makes a dig against visiting Imbler.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Senior Amelita Muntyan was one of the leaders in a comeback win for the Huskies.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Open Door senior Natalie Van Vleet.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - The Huskies had to battle to comeback and beat Imbler 3-2.

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