A slow start and struggles with its attack led to Jesuit volleyball falling to West Linn in the title match.

Teresa Zimmerlee said her Jesuit volleyball team has been getting off to slow starts regularly, and that was the case Friday night, Nov. 5, against Bend in the Class 6A semifinal.

The Lava Bears were able to rally at the end of the set and take it 26-24 to put the Crusaders in an early hole.

The arms of Ceanna O'Loughlin and Isabel Patterson wouldn't be denied on the Jesuit side, though, as the two outside hitters took control of the match in sets 2-4.

Now, a slow start against No. 1 West Linn in the title match? That could be more problematic, and it was the Crusaders who fell behind 1-0 in the Class 6A title match Saturday, Nov. 6.

However, this time Jesuit wasn't able to climb out of the hole as the Lions' blockers shut down O'Loughlin and Patterson on the outside and cruised to a 25-16, 25-21, 25-20 state title.

"I think they're pretty solid in every position and they had quite a bit of experience coming in," Zimmerlee said. "The other two times we played them, (the blockers) were pretty tough."

Starting in the semifinal against Bend, O'Loughlin finished the match with 20 kills while Patterson picked up 18 and Jesuit took the last three sets 25-18, 25-20 and 25-13 to close out the 3-1 match win.

"We've been starting out a little cold, but once we get warmed up, they're really hard to stop," Zimmerlee said. "Ceanna was crushing everything, they didn't really have an answer for Ceanna."

Bend had its share of solid hitters as well, and they looked the part in the first set, but couldn't keep that momentum going.

Part of the issue was that the Lava Bears had Jesuit's 6-foot-3 middle blocker Tess Masingale across from them, forcing the shot to go around her or picking up blocks.

With Masingale's tall frame blocking paths, the Crusaders were able to get easier digs and get better sets for their two on-fire hitters.

"Tess is pretty hard to hit around — she's 6-foot-3 and has good reach," Zimmerlee said. "The sophomore Lily (Lansing) does a pretty good job, too."

The Crusaders needed those three on Saturday against West Linn in the title match, but instead it was the Lions' block that won out.

The slow start for Jesuit reared its head as the Lions built a lead as large as nine in the first frame behind six kills from Abbie Hoover.

The second set saw improvement from the Crusaders, but West Linn creeped back in thanks to its middles.

The Lions didn't hold a lead until it took over at 20-19 on a block for a point, which the Lions finished with 10 of compared to the Crusaders 6.5.PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jesuit High volleyball's Maisie Alexander, right, makes a dig against West Linn on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, during the Class 6A state title match at Liberty High School.

"I tell the middles that if you're active and engaged, you actually support the team, even if it's one or two, you're opening up and people have to hesitate," West Linn coach Emilie Wilmes said. "Having middles that are super active really helps us."

Up 24-20 in the third set, West Linn middle blocker Ella Norquist delivered the final kill when Jesuit sent its second hit over the net and out of play, giving the Lions their first volleyball state title since 2007.

Patterson led the way in kills for Jesuit with nine, followed by O'Loughlin with eight and Masingale had seven. Jackie Carle led the team with 22 assists and Maisie Alexander had the most digs with 17 and was named the player of the match on the Jesuit side.

West Linn setter Shealyn Cecil was named the player of the match on the Lions' side after putting up 31 assists and 11 digs.

"We have some kids who are pretty young and are doing a great job for us," Zimmerlee said. "Experience does help a little. I thought Ceanna O'Loughlin had a tremendous tournament and so did Hannah Nguyen. Those two played extremely well.

"But I was proud of the kids; I thought they did a great job."

The 13th title game appearance for the volleyball powerhouse in Jesuit is still the second most in Oregon high school history, still six behind Central Catholic with 19.PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jesuit High volleyball's Hannah Nguyen makes a dig against West Linn on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, during the Class 6A state title match at Liberty High School.

While it didn't end with a state title, plenty of girls will return like both OHs in O'Loughlin and Patterson, as well as the setter in Carle.

For now, the six seniors leaving the Crusaders, Masingale, Nguyen, Alexander, Allie Branch, Taylor Lenz and Harper Buchholz, will be a group that Zimmerlee surely won't forget not just because of their volleyball talent, but who they are as individuals.

"They're smart, they're hardworking, they're committed to doing well and they're good people," Zimmerlee said. "This team supports, it takes care of each other, great team to coach. I wouldn't trade them for any team."

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