A global pandemic, a delayed season, a new coach, and a graduating class that included the 2A state player of the year. It's enough to topple any team, yet the Kennedy volleyball program continues to roll as if nothing has changed since they swept Central Linn to win the 2019 2A state championship.
The Trojans have been unstoppable this season, winning all but two sets as the team has built a 7-0 record in the first three weeks of the truncated season in March.
""I think were doing great," outside hitter Hailey Arritola said following back-to-back victories over the Gervais Cougars earlier in the season. "We lost people last year but have still a lot of our core, everyone has stepped up. Emma (Beyer) is doing an amazing job. There are five of us that are seniors now so we are just going for it. "
Arritola and Beyer are part of that senior core that includes Ellie Cantu, Elisue Suing and Kelsey Kleinschmit. Together the quintet has seen more playoff action than most. Cantu, Suing, Kleinschmit and Arritola were freshmen on the 2017 team that was one set away from the 2A championship game, ultimately placing third at state.
The four returned a year later with Beyer in the mix, helping the Trojans return to the state tournament for a fifth-place finish. The team finally got over the hump in 2019 with a near-perfect season, going 33-1 and sweeping the state playoff slate to win the program's first title in school history.
While the Trojans will be unable to defend their championship after the OSAA canceled the post season for fall sports, the team was simply happy play when they first heard in February that they had been cleared to play at all.
"It was great," Cantu said. "We were all thinking that we might play but nobody knew for sure, then they just told us one day to be at practice and the games were happening, we were so excited."
Kennedy has shown no signs of drop off since their title run, sweeping 1A state runner up St. Paul (25-14, 25-16, 26-24) on March 16 and Salem Academy (26-24, 25-18, 25-20) on March 17. Five of the team's seven victories have come on the road, but the two home wins have been admittedly felt unusual within the usual din of Kennedy spectators spurring the team on to victory.
"It's really wierd, I think we have just kinda learned to play with no noise in the gym," Cantu said. "We miss the fans because their cheering really gives us energy and brings us up when we are down."
The Trojans are in the midst of a four-game homestand, with their next scheduled contest Monday against St. Paul (6-2). Kennedy hosts Dufur (5-0) Tuesday and takes on Colton (1-7) on March 29 in its home finale.
— Andre Panse contributed to this story.
The Kennedy football team squeezed out an 18-12 overtime victory over the visiting Salem Academy Crusaders Thursday after senior David Reyes punched in the game-winning touchdown from nine yards out to lift the Trojans to their second consecutive victory.
Kennedy (2-1) handed Salem Academy (2-1) its first loss of the season in a back-and-forth game where the Trojan defense held the Crusaders in check in the first possession of overtime to set up Kennedy's game-winning drive.
Reyes finished with 75 yards on 20 carries, while teammate Brady Traeger added 40 yards on the ground and 33 receiving yards.
Kennedy travels to 3A Dayton (1-2) Friday.
The Kennedy girls saw their first action as a full team this season, placing third at the Champs Invite, hosted at Cheadle Lake Park in Lebanon.
Senior Cassie Traeger led the way with a 13th-place finish in 24:10.50, followed by freshman teammate Nora Brenden who set a new person best time by nearly two minutes with an 18th-place finish in 24:54.90.
Briar Hachenberg (23rd, 26:16.60), Haley Kline (27th, 27:13.80) and Alyse Williams (38th, 30:36.60) rounded out the team's finishes.
The Trojans return to the race course Wednesday when host five schools at Silver Falls State Park.
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