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The Oregon City High School volleyball team only has one senior, but the Pios are becoming a Three Rivers League force.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Oregon City senior libero Samantha Keightley (5) and sophomore hitter Paige Thies (11) await a serve during the Pioneers' 3-0 win over Lakeridge on Thursday, Sept. 22, at Oregon City High School.In high school sports, it's often the case that the oldest team wins.

Don't tell that to the Oregon City High School volleyball team, which went undefeated in Three Rivers League play through the first three weeks of action. The Pioneers defeated visiting Lakeridge in three sets (25-11, 27-25, 25-18) on Thursday, Sept. 22, to move to 5-0 in league games and 7-2 overall ahead of a weekend tournament they will be hosting.

One thing that immediately stands out about this Oregon City team is its youth. The Pioneers have exactly one senior on the roster — libero Samantha Keightley — with the rest of the squad filled out by juniors and sophomores.

"It's been pretty fun to work with these young girls," said Keightley after the win over Lakeridge. "They all really work well together, and I think I've been really good with them."

The feeling is mutual within the younger guard, which looks to Keightley for leadership.

"Sammy is our captain, and she's our only senior," said sophomore hitter Paige Thies. "She's been doing a great job of keeping us together. She is the glue holding this team together."

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Oregon City sophomore Paige Thies leads the Pioneer offense as one of the top outside hitters in the Three Rivers League.While the senior libero anchors the passing and back row defense for the Pioneers and junior middle blocker Olivia Adamo is solid at the net, the team also gets a hearty helping of offense out of Thies.

As a freshman, the outside hitter was an All-Three Rivers League Second Team selection. Before the season, Oregon City head coach Erica Frajford called Thies "one of the top players in the state," and the sophomore has done nothing to disabuse those notions through the first few weeks.

"Paige and I have such a good chemistry out there together," said Keightley. "I just love setting to her when I can and telling her where to hit."

Focusing back on the Pioneers' defense, however, Keightley's contributions shine all over the court — literally. The senior spends nearly as much time on the ground as she does upright, a playing style that she has been working a long time to develop.

"I've always thought, 'Hey, if the ball is going to the floor, I'm going to the floor,'" said Keightley. "Making sure to be scrappy all the time."

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Oregon City libero Samantha Keightley (pictured) is the only senior on the Oregon City team, and sophomore teammate Paige Thies called her 'the glue holding this team together.'

"Our scrappiness is so good, making sure the ball didn't hit the floor," added Thies. "That was amazing."

In the match against Lakeridge, the Pioneers got out to a hot start with a 25-11 win in the opening set. From there, the Pacers settled down and nearly grabbed the second set before Oregon City pulled out a 27-25 set win. The Pios pulled away midway through the third set and cruised to a 25-18 finish for the win, their fifth in five league games.

"(Lakeridge) is a really strong team, but we pulled it together tonight to get the win," said Thies.

"Sometimes, our energy wavers, but we keep going and finish out," Keightley added. "We just need to keep doing that."

After having seen all six of their Three Rivers League opponents, including the season-opening jamboree against Tualatin, Oregon City is feeling good about their chances in the conference.

"I think we will go far in the Three Rivers League," said Thies. "West Linn is probably our biggest competition. Lake Oswego and St. Mary's are really good this year, too."

While the Lions, Lakers and Blues may give Oregon City some trouble the second time around, the Pioneers did not drop a set to any of those three schools in the first go-round. That plays in nicely with the goals that the team has set for itself.

"Winning Three Rivers League and going undefeated right now," said Keightley of the Pios' mission. "With this next round coming, we're hoping to stay undefeated. Then, hopefully going to state, too."

Keightley is happy with the team's progress thus far, but she knows that Oregon City will have to switch things up a little bit if they want to be as successful in the back half of the league slate.

"We're doing pretty well," said a humble Keightley. "We just need to put some new things together and come up with some surprises for the other teams."

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that a team with just one senior is looking like the class of the Three Rivers League through the first half of the season.

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